No. 2991 Philadelphia 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County, Criminal Division, at No. 81-10,066.
James Robert Protasio, Assistant Public Defender, Williamsport, for appellant.
Kenneth D. Brown, District Attorney, Williamsport, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cavanaugh, Rowley, and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 350]
Appellant contends that he was denied his constitutional right to confront witnesses and that the lower court erred in failing to charge the jury that appellant was prohibited by the Rape Shield Law from introducing evidence of the victim's prior sexual relations. We find no merit in these contentions and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of sentence.
Shortly after an encounter with a fellow inmate at Lycoming County prison, appellant was charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, simple assault and terroristic threats. At a pre-trial hearing on July 14, 1981, the lower court, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rape Shield Act, found appellant's proposed evidence of the victim's prior sexual relations with other inmates inadmissible for the purposes of impeaching the victim's credibility and implying consent between the victim and appellant. On July 31, 1981, a jury found appellant guilty on all counts. After the denial of post-verdict motions, appellant was
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 351]
sentenced to a term of three-to-six years imprisonment. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends first that the lower court's excluding evidence of the victim's prior sexual relations constituted a denial of his Sixth amendment right to confrontation,*fn1 an issue of first impression in this Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Rape Shield Law provides that
Evidence of specific instances of the alleged victim's past sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the alleged victim's past sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the alleged victim's past sexual conduct shall not be admissible in prosecutions under this chapter except evidence of the alleged victim's past sexual conduct with the defendant where consent of the alleged victim is at issue and such evidence is otherwise admissible pursuant to the rules of evidence.
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 352]
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3104(a). Rape Shield laws have evolved in many jurisdictions from criticism of a criminal justice system that is "overly solicitous in protecting the interests of the alleged . . . perpetrator, to the virtual exclusion of the [victim's] sensibilities and legal rights."*fn2 Commonwealth Page 352} v. Strube, 274 Pa. Superior Ct. 199, 204, 418 A.2d 365, 367 (1979), cert. den. Strube v. Pennsylvania, 449 U.S. 992, 101 S.Ct. 527, 66 L.Ed.2d 288 (1980).*fn3 The Strube court, addressing itself to the Pennsylvania Shield Law, noted the legislature's recognition of the limited probative value of the often sordid details of a victim's prior sexual history and emphasized the legislature's concern in rape trials over the "travesty of presenting a noisome stream of defense witnesses testifying to the sexual ...