House Approves Sex-Crimes Bill

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2005

By By Rob Moritz and Doug Thompson
Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK After lengthy debate, a bill that would allow prosecutors to use other crimes or alleged crimes against sex crime defendants was approved by the House on Wednesday.
House Bill 1028 by Rep. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, passed 58-36.
Thompson said the proposal would make the defendant's commission of another sex offense admissible in court and it would give a judge discretion on whether to tell a jury to consider the evidence.
Some lawmakers said the bill was unfair because it would allow the admission of any direct testimony or alleged prior acts, regardless of whether the defendant was acquitted or even charged previously.
Rep. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, who previously worked in the Pulaski County prosecutor's office, said he was concerned that an innocent person could be found guilty based on a previous incident that was unfounded.
After further discussion, including some technical questions involving the legal terminology in the bill, Johnson asked for the bill to be referred back to the House Judiciary Committee for further discussion. That proposal was voted down.
Reps. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, and Timothy Hutchinson, R-Lowell, both said the measure protects the victims, who often are required to testify and discuss difficult and embarrassing things that happened to them.
Hutchinson recounted a case involving a constituent who was raped by an apartment maintenance man who had a key to her apartment. The maintenance man had been arrested previously for doing the same thing at another apartment complex but that evidence could not be used during the rape trial.
Also Wednesday, the House passed HB 1109, which allows Arkansas taxpayers to deduct cash contributions made to tsunami relief efforts through January on their 2004 tax returns. The vote was 97-0.
Johnson, who sponsored the bill, said it mirrors a federal income tax relief resolution approved by Congress and signed by President Bush earlier this month.
In other action, the House also passed:
w HB 1064 by Reps. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, and Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, which allows income tax deductions for contributions made to a health savings account. The vote was 98-0.
w HB 1068 by Rep. Shirley Borhauer, R-Bella Vista, which allows county environmental officers to issue citations for illegal dumping. The vote was 83-4.