Olden v. Kentucky 488 U.S. 227, 109 S.Ct. 480, 102 L.Ed.2d 513 (1988)
Matthews met Olden and Harris at a bar. They all left
Matthews claimed that Olden and Harris fraudulently
convinced her to accompany them, then took her to a deserted location and
Olden and Harris claimed everything was consensual.
Olden and Harris had three witnesses that agreed with
their version of events.
Eventually, Harris dropped Matthews off at the home of her
Russell testified that after Matthews was dropped off,
she claimed she had been abducted and raped.
At trial, Olden and Harris argued that Matthews had
concocted the story in order to protect her relationship with Russell, who
would have been suspicious when he saw her getting out of Harris' car in
the middle of the night.
In order to establish their defense, Olden and Harris
attempted to introduce evidence that Matthews and Russell were now living
The prosecution argued that this evidence was
inadmissible because evidence of a victim's sexual behavior is
inadmissible under Kentucky's rape shield statute.
The Trial Judge did not allow the evidence to be
Olden and Harris attempted to cross-examine Matthews at
trial about her living arrangements. She testified that she was living
with her mother.
This was untrue, she was living with Russell at the time.
Olden and Harris were prevented from impeaching Matthews.
Strangely, the Trial Court found Olden and Harris innocent
of abduction and rape, but found Olden guilty of forcible sodomy. He
The Appellate Court affirmed. Olden appealed.
The Appellate Court agreed with Olden that the facts of
Matthews living arrangements were not covered by the rap shield law.
However, they found that the evidence was inadmissible
because Matthews was white (and married to someone else), and since
Russell was black (and was involved in an extra-marital affair with
Matthews), the evidence of their relationship was too prejudicial.
FRE 403 says that a court may exclude evidence if
its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found that exposure of a witness'
motivation in testifying is a proper and important function of the
constitutionally protected right to cross-examination. That violates the
confrontation clause of the 6th Amendment.
In this case, a reasonable jury could have doubted
Matthew's credibility if they had know about her relationship with
The US Supreme Court found that a Trial Court may impose
reasonable limits on inquiries into the potential bias of a prosecution
witness for a number of good reasons. However, speculation about a
jury's racial biases is not one of those reasons.