EDITOR’S NOTE: Please be aware the following column contains frank language about violent sexual crimes.
Colorado law provides that: in the prosecution of sexual offenses, including in proving the corpus delicti of such offenses, there is a greater need and propriety for consideration by the fact finder of evidence of other relevant acts of the accused, including any actions, crimes, wrongs, or transactions, whether isolated acts or ongoing actions and whether occurring prior to or after the charged offense. The general assembly finds that such evidence of other sexual acts is typically relevant and highly probative.” § 16-10-301, C.R.S.
Rape is an abomination. Rapists crave power and control. It turns them on. They are aroused by victims rendered helpless to resist. Having done it before, rapists crave more.
Back in the 80s and 90s, I prosecuted several of Colorado’s worst serial rapists. They were sentenced to lives in prison except for serial rapist/murderer Frank Rodriguez. He was sentenced to death.
During my last two decades, I’ve represented many rape victims including children victimized by family members. Some of my clients have been victims of teachers and coaches. Other cases have been against creeps who use rape drugs. Rapists want their victims to be weak and impaired. They do not want good witnesses against them.
Denver’s Capitol Hill Rapist Quintin Wortham wanted no witnesses. This cat burglar snuck into homes and ambushed women from behind. He then covered their heads, made them feel his knife, raped them, and forced his victims to shower afterwards.
Wortham, now deceased, was convicted of six such atrocities in Denver District Court and sentenced to a then record 376 years. We had a seventh case in which Wortham left semen on the bedspread of his victim, and that first Colorado DNA trial was moved to Aspen on a change of venue. Wortham was convicted again and given an additional 24 years.
In the Pitkin County courthouse, I asked Wortham, who represented himself, why he was using all his peremptory juror challenges to excuse men instead of women. He said that “men put a value on pussy, women don’t.” Such skewed realities and rationalizations by rapists are part and parcel of their horrendous habitual desires.
Back in the late 70s and well into the 80s, just east of I-25 and Hampden in Denver, there was a hip, Vegas lounge like, Turn of the Century nightclub. Bill Cosby regularly performed there. Two of his victims were young women from Denver, and actions in furtherance of the crimes allegedly happened in Colorado. Cosby is scheduled to return to Colorado to perform on January 16-17, 2015.
Even in libertarian societies, some acts are just too reprehensible to be forgotten or forgiven. Rape wrecks real people for a real long time. Rape drug perpetrators may rationalize their victims will not remember. But they do. The rapes allegedly committed by Bill Cosby were dreadful and destructive. He has destroyed himself.
The Colorado statute of limitations for civil and criminal charges is expanded for sex crimes, but not enough. Some of Cosby victims likely gained appreciation of their own victimization after reading about all the others. Most people have only recently come to fully understand Cosby’s squalid method of operation. Why should these drugged rape victims be precluded from legal relief for not timely bringing their case?
Evidence of similar sexual misconduct is admissible in American courts. And it is powerful. Juries feel good and certain about convicting rapists with multiple accusers.
Under Colorado courtroom rules, while evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity therewith, it may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. CRE 404(2)(b).
Besides the above Colorado Rule of Evidence, Colorado has a special statute aimed precisely at the Bill Cosbys of the world.
§ 16-10-301. Evidence of similar transactions–legislative declaration
(1) The general assembly hereby finds and declares that sexual offenses are a matter of grave statewide concern. These frequently occurring offenses are aggressive and assaultive violations of the well-being, privacy, and security of the victims, are severely contrary to common notions of proper behavior between people, and result in serious and long-lasting harm to individuals and society. These offenses often are not reported or are reported long after the offense for many reasons, including: The frequency with which the victims are vulnerable, such as young children who may be related to the perpetrator; the personal indignity, humiliation, and embarrassment involved in the offenses themselves; and the fear of further personal indignity, humiliation, and embarrassment in connection with investigation and prosecution. These offenses usually occur under circumstances in which there are no witnesses except for the accused and the victim, and, because of this and the frequent delays in reporting, there is often no evidence except for the conflicting testimony. Moreover, there is frequently a reluctance on the part of others to believe that the offenses occurred because of the inequality between the victim and the perpetrator, such as between the child victim and the adult accused, or because of the deviant and distasteful nature of the charges. In addition, it is recognized that some sex offenders cannot or will not respond to treatment or otherwise resist the impulses which motivate such conduct and that sex offenders are extremely habituated. As a result, such offenders often commit numerous offenses involving sexual deviance over many years, with the same or different victims, and often, but not necessarily, through similar methods or by common design. The general assembly reaffirms and reemphasizes that, in the prosecution of sexual offenses, including in proving the corpus delicti of such offenses, there is a greater need and propriety for consideration by the fact finder of evidence of other relevant acts of the accused, including any actions, crimes, wrongs, or transactions, whether isolated acts or ongoing actions and whether occurring prior to or after the charged offense. The general assembly finds that such evidence of other sexual acts is typically relevant and highly probative, and it is expected that normally the probative value of such evidence will outweigh any danger of unfair prejudice, even when incidents are remote from one another in time.
It will be interesting to see if Bill Cosby ever returns to Colorado.
Craig Silverman is a partner in the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman & Olivas, specializing in personal injury law, criminal matters, and problem solving. He served for sixteen years at the Denver District Attorney’s Office where he was a Chief Deputy District Attorney. Craig has appeared hundreds of times on local and national media on number of wide-ranging topics and stories including the JonBenet Ramsey case, Columbine, the Oklahoma City Bombing trials, the Kobe Bryant case, and the Aurora movie theater massacre. Craig Silverman has been a regular panelist for more than a decade on the award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television Channel 12, and he currently hosts The Craig Silverman Show on Saturdays (9-noon) on 710KNUS.