Guam – The Supreme Court of Guam has reversed the judgment of the Superior Court of Guam in the case of People v. Arthur Joseph Ojeda, 2011 Guam 27. A new trial has been ordered.
The opinion was authored by Justice Katherine A. Maraman and joined by Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido and Justice Robert J. Torres.
Ojeda appealed his convictions of five counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, as a first degree felony, and nine counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct, as a first degree felony. In 2009, Ojeda was indicted on charges of first and second degree criminal sexual conduct against a minor. At trial, evidence of alleged prior sexual assault of the minor was admitted to show an alternative source of the minor’s alleged injury.
The evidence was allowed through cross-examination of the nurse and social worker who physically examined and interviewed the minor. The trial court, however, restricted Ojeda from eliciting the information through his cross-examination of the minor and the investigating police officer.
The jury found Ojeda guilty on five counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, as a first degree felony, and nine counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct, as a first degree felony. On appeal, Ojeda argued that the Superior Court violated his Sixth Amendment rights because the trial court, relying on Guam’s rape shield statute, restricted him from eliciting relevant information regarding prior sexual conduct of the victim. The Supreme Court concluded that the interests protected by Guam’s rape shield statute requirements are outweighed by the potential probativeness of the evidence of the prior sexual assault of the minor. As such, the court found no error in the trial court’s admission of the evidence of the prior sexual assault.
The court also concluded that the proffered evidence of the prior sexual assault was admissible under the rape shield statute, but held that the trial court should have allowed broader cross-examination of the minor to satisfy Ojeda’s Sixth Amendment rights to confrontation and to present a defense.
Ojeda’s convictions were reversed and the judgment was vacated. Accordingly, the case was remanded for a new trial.