State v. MacBale

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 07-25-2013
  • Case #: S060079
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Balmer, C.J. for the Court; En Banc

In OEC 412(4) hearings to determine the admissibility of evidence of a sex crime victim's past sexual behavior, excluding the public is permissible under both the Oregon and United States Constitutions.

Defendant petitioned the Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to make OEC 412(4) hearings to determine the admissibility of evidence of a sex crime victim’s past sexual behavior open to the public. Defendant argued that the Oregon Constitution requires that OEC 412 hearings be conducted in public because they pertain to the admissibility of evidence. The case history involving the open courts clause contained in Article I, section 10 of the Oregon Constitution indicates the framers did not view the public’s right to access courts as absolute and that certain types of proceedings, including pretrial hearings to decide the admissibility of evidence, were or could be closed to the public. Article I, section 10, generally prohibits a hearing from being closed to the public if, during that hearing, “justice” is “administered,” and for an OEC 412 hearing to be held in public it must “administer justice” within the meaning of that provision. The Supreme Court held that since an OEC 412 hearing does not result in a finding of guilt or innocence, it does not administer justice and should not be held in public. Further, the Court held that an OEC 412 hearing should be protected from public disclosure because the purpose of an OEC 412 hearing is to determine whether particular evidence falls within a class that has been determined presumptively irrelevant. Defendant also argued that Article I, section 11, of the Oregon constitution supports his position that an OEC 412(4) hearing should be open to the public. The Court held that Article I, section 11, guarantees a defendant the right to a “public trial” and nothing in the text or context of that provision suggests the framers intended to require that a pretrial hearing to determine admissibility of evidence be open to the public. Petition for writ of mandamus dismissed.

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