Michigan v. Lucas
United States Supreme Court
MICHIGAN, PETITIONER v. NOLAN K. LUCAS
No. 90-149 Argued: March 26, 1991. --- Decided: May 20, 1991
Syllabus Michigan's "rape-shield" statute generally prohibits a criminal defendant from introducing at trial evidence of an alleged rape victim's past sexual conduct. However, a statutory exception permits a defendant to introduce evidence of his own past sexual conduct with the victim, provided that he files a written motion and an offer of proof within 10 days after he is arraigned, whereupon the trial court may hold an in camera hearing to determine whether the proposed evidence is admissible. Because respondent Lucas failed to give the statutorily required notice and, therefore, no admissibility hearing was held, a state court refused to let him introduce, at his bench trial on charges of criminal sexual assault, evidence of a prior sexual relationship with the victim, his ex-girlfriend. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, but the State Court of Appeals reversed, adopting a per se rule that the statutory notice-and-hearing requirement violates the Sixth Amendment in all cases where it is used to preclude evidence of a past sexual relationship between a rape victim and a criminal defendant.
1. Assuming, arguendo, that the Michigan rape-shield statute authorizes preclusion of the evidence as a remedy for a defendant's failure to comply with the notice-and-hearing requirement, the State Court of Appeals erred in adopting a per se rule that such preclusion is unconstitutional in all cases. The Sixth Amendment is not so rigid. The notice-and-hearing requirement serves legitimate state interests: protecting rape victims against surprise, harassment, and unnecessary invasions of privacy and protecting against surprise to the prosecution. This Court's decisions demonstrate that such interests may justify even the severe sanction of preclusion in an appropriate case. Taylor v. Illinois, 484 U.S. 400, 413-414, 417, 108 S.Ct. 646, 654-655, 656, 98 L.Ed.2d 798; United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 241, 95 S.Ct. 2160, 2171, 45 L.Ed.2d 141. Pp. 149-153.
2. The Michigan courts must address in the first instance whether the rape-shield statute authorizes preclusion and whether, on the facts of this case, preclusion violated Lucas' Sixth Amendment rights. P. 153.
Vacated and remanded.
O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined.
Don W. Atkins, Detroit, Mich., for petitioner.
Sol. Gen. Kenneth W. Starr, Washington, D.C., for U.S., as amicus curiae, supporting petitioner, by special leave of Court.
Mark H. Magidson, Detroit, Mich., for respondent.
Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.