Massachusetts Appeals Court Says Evidence of Defendant’s Possession of Gay Pornography Improperly Admitted in Child Rape Case

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today reversed several sex convictions against a defendant whose trial was improperly tainted by irrelevant evidence that the defendant possessed gay pornography.  The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Christie

The alleged victim, Daniel, was 12 years old and living with his mother and the defendant in the summer of 2005.  According to Daniel, the defendant performed oral sex on him on two occasions and anally penetrated him with a sex toy.  The police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home and seized several videotapes containing pornography (some videos depicted heterosexual porn while others contained gay porn).  Daniel told the police the defendant had shown him the heterosexual porn but not the gay porn.  An Essex Superior Court jury convicted the defendant of several sex crimes, including multiple counts of statutory rape.

The defendant appealed his convictions primarily on the grounds that the introduction of evidence of his possession of gay pornography at his trial was reversible error.  While the trial judge correctly concluded that the defendant’s homosexuality was completely irrelevant to the question of whether he was sexually attracted to children in general, he determined that the defendant’s gay porn collection was relevant to his sexual interest specifically in Daniel.  Further, reasoned the trial judge, the gay porn related to the manner and means by which the defendant allegedly sexually assaulted Daniel.  Accordingly, the judge allowed the Commonwealth’s witnesses to describe the acts portrayed on the videos (without allowing the videos themselves to be admitted into evidence) and instructed the jurors they could not consider the pornography to prove the defendant had a bad character.

The Appeals Court reversed the statutory rape convictions.  The Court acknowledged that in some cases, a defendant’s possession of pornography may be relevant to the specific allegations.  For example, in a prior Massachusetts case, the defendant was accused of groping a 12-year-old girl’s breast.  He possessed photographs of young girls interspersed with adult pornography.  The Appeals Court concluded in that case that the evidence of pornography was admissible to show the defendant’s interest in young girls.  In this case, there is no correlation between the acts shown in the pornographic videos and the alleged criminal behavior.  Therefore, reasoned the Court, the defendant’s interest in watching adult men have sex with one another is irrelevant to whether he was sexually interested in an underage boy.  The Court made its point in a really effective way, by inviting the reader to imagine the defendant in this case was a man who allegedly raped an underage girl.  In that scenario, the man’s possession of heterosexual pornography in his home would unquestionably not be admissible at trial.  The Appeals Court’s opinion is a further debunking of “the myth that homosexual men have an interest in sex with underage children.”  As the Court pointed out, this bigoted theory has been discredited.  However, because some individuals still accept this “ingrained stereotype,” the introduction of the pornography in this case was prejudicial and the defendant is therefore entitled to a new trial.