Using a Position of Trust to Engage in Sex

In People v. Harris (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 727, the defendant was charged with using a position of trust as a mental health nurse to engage in sex with two women who were "vulnerable due to their mental condition." (Id. at p. 730.) The prior offense involved a brutal rape, in which Harris beat his victim and stabbed her. (Id. at p. 733.) In finding that the prior offense was improperly admitted at trial, the Harris court noted the striking dissimilarities between the 23-year-old prior offense and the charged offenses and concluded that the prior offense had no "significant probative value" on any disputed issue. (Id. at pp. 740-741.) The defendant was a mental health nurse, and the current incidents involved him committing sexual assaults on two of his patients. He was accused of preying on women who were vulnerable due to their mental health conditions. (Id. at pp. 730-732.) The court allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence under section 1108 that the defendant had been convicted in an earlier case of entering a stranger's apartment and brutally sexually attacking her. (Id. at p. 734.) The appellate court reversed the judgment, finding that section 1108 was remote, and the evidence was not probative since the degree of similarity between the prior incidents and current incidents were totally dissimilar. (Id. at p. 740.) In Harris, the evidence that the defendant committed a violent rape of a stranger was not similar at all to the current offenses involving the sexual assaults of defendant's patients, who were vulnerable due to their mental health conditions. (Harris, supra, 60 Cal.App.4th at pp. 730, 734.)