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No. 26204 - State of West Virginia v. Ronald Lynn Calloway

Starcher, C. J., concurring:

        I write separately to emphasize the consistent recognition by this Court that a trial court must give a defendant in a rape case every fair opportunity to fight the charges against him. Rape shield laws cannot under any circumstances be applied in such a way as to deny a defendant the full constitutional right to confront his accuser.

        Why is the constitutional right to present a full defense so important?

        One reason is that the criminal trial process is far from perfect. Factually guilty people are sometimes not convicted of a crime they actually committed. And sometimes innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. Just this year, a West Virginian who had been in prison for over 15 years on a rape charge was freed because of newly discovered DNA evidence.

        In the instant case, the trial court's ruling applying the rape shield law did not injure the defendant's right to a full defense. (Nevertheless, if I had been the trial court, I probably would have let the semen stain evidence in.) Trial courts must hold the defendant's need and right to present a full defense as sacrosanct, and must resolve all doubts in favor of that right.