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Reforming New Jersey Evidence Law on Fresh Complaint of Rape

NCJ Number
Rutgers Law Journal Volume: 25 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1994) Pages: 699-758
R M Coombs
Date Published
60 pages
The New Jersey law of evidence contains a doctrine of fresh complaint which, when applied in criminal cases involving rape and other sexual assaults, allows the prosecutor to introduce evidence of an alleged rape victim's extrajudicial allegations that the crime occurred, under circumstances where they would otherwise be inadmissible as hearsay.
This article summarizes existing New Jersey doctrine and contrasts it with the State Supreme Court ruling that deemed irrelevant defense evidence that an alleged victim of sexual abuse delayed her disclosure of the crime if she is a young child. Current New Jersey judicial precedents are unclear on the admissibility of defense evidence that an alleged adult rape victim delayed reporting the crime and that she did so under circumstances that cast doubt on her credibility. The article also outlines criticisms from other commentators on this subject. The reform proposed here would have three key elements. No fresh complaint rule should permit the State to introduce evidence of extrajudicial allegations where they are otherwise inadmissible under the hearsay rule, unless the defendant has introduced evidence about the timing or circumstances of any extrajudicial statement made by the alleged victim. The accused should be allowed to introduce such evidence whenever it fulfills the existing general rules of evidence. Finally, when the defense introduces such evidence, the State should be allowed to respond by introducing evidence of the timing, circumstances, and content of the alleged victim's extrajudicial statements. A response to this article disputes its central factual premise that delay evidence is often useful information in an assessment of whether or not an alleged victim has actually been raped. 204 notes


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