Woman admits to fabricating rape claim
This past Tuesday the local news media was widely reporting a local woman's claim that she had been forcibly raped in broad daylight by two men at a local shopping mall. Yesterday Gresham police announced the woman had fabricated the entire story.
While these particular false accusations were put to rest before anyone was arrested or criminally charged in the matter, that is not always the case. Unfortunately, false accusations of rape or other criminal conduct are not always rooted out by the police prior to criminal charges being brought against innocent persons.
While false accusations of rape are no doubt rare - statistical claims of the prevalence of such claims vary widely and are of dubious utility - as demonstrated by this case, they do in fact occur. In the case recently covered in the news, the report was easily refuted. This may not always be the case, however. Consider a hypothetical case of false accusations arriving in a private setting between two individuals. Such a case can devolve into a credibility contest between the accuser and the accused. Such cases have resulted in arrest and prosecution.
Oregon's rules of evidence strictly circumscribe the admissibility of certain types of evidence in such cases. For example, presenting evidence of the accuser's past sexual behavior is generally and strictly forbidden. Evidence that the accuser has made other prior false accusations, while generally admissible must meet rigorous standards before being allowed before the jury.
Oregon defense attorneys defending sexual assault cases must be extremely thorough, well versed in the Oregon Evidence code, and prepared to defend a client the system may have already pre-judge based entirely on the untested testimony of the accuser. Clients are often shocked when they are informed of the standard Oregon jury instruction that "the testimony of one witness if believed, is sufficient to find the defendant guilty." The "if believed" portion is the critical one. That is where an experienced and creative defense attorney can break the case.