Covington v. State

In Covington v. State, 703 P.2d 436 (Alaska App. 1985), the defendant argued that he should have been allowed to present evidence suggesting that the complaining witness had falsely accused two other men of sexual abuse. The complaining witness agreed that she had accused the two men of abusing her, but she asserted that the accusations were true. Covington wanted to call one of the two men to the stand and have him deny the truth of the accusations. (See id., 703 P.2d at 441-42.) The Court noted that "a majority of the courts which have considered this issue permit such evidence, but only if the defendant makes a showing out of the presence of the jury that the witness's prior allegations of sexual assault were false". The Court then declared that we would "adopt this rule for Alaska". In Covington, the Court stated that it was the defendant's burden to prove "that the witness'[s] prior allegations of sexual assault were false, as, for example, where the charges somehow had been disproved or where the witness had conceded their falsity". The Court stated that we generally agree with "authorities which hold that leeway is necessary in charging sexual abuse and sexual intercourse with minors because children who are the victims of abuse may find it difficult to recall precisely the dates of offenses against them months or even years after the offense has occurred." The Court concluded that Covington had not been prejudiced because his defense was "a 'blanket denial' of sexual activity with the victim as opposed to an alibi defense as to specific dates." The Court also noted that a defendant is protected by "the broad rights to discovery granted a criminal defendant under the Alaska Rules." The Court stated that, at trial, to ensure jury unanimity, the prosecutor must elect specific incidents or alternatively, the jury must be instructed "that all 12 jurors must agree that the same underlying criminal act has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt."