The prosecution in a Santa Cruz, California rape case is challenging the credibility of a proposed defense expert on sexual consent.
Christian Daniel Rodriguez, 29, of Watsonville, California is accused of raping and restraining a woman on September 11, 2015. Rodriguez is charged with five felonies: two charges of rape by force or fear involving an impaired victim and a victim who is falsely imprisoned; two charges of forced sodomy; and false imprisonment. Rodriguez has denied all charges.
Rodriguez was tried for the first time in January 2017, but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The vote was deadlocked 11 to 1. Rodriguez was scheduled for a retrial. The retrial was postponed four times during 2018. Rodriguez’ second trial finally began on January 30, 2019. He has been held in Santa Cruz County Jail since December 4, 2015 with a bail that was set at $100,000.
Rodriguez’ current trial is being held in front of Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Siegel. Multiple witnesses have testified, DNA evidence has been filed, and a transcript was read from previous testimony by the woman who has alleged that she was raped. There was also a transcript from the prior case where a witness confirms that someone was held down and raped.
Rodriguez has nine prior criminal cases that have been tried in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. In 2010, he was convicted of having sex with a minor more than three years younger than him and soliciting or encouraging a minor in connection with the sales or transport of a controlled substance.
Expert Witness Controversy
Public defender Alyssa Thompson is representing Rodriguez. Thompson proposed to add Dr. Deborah Davis as an expert witness to testify on Rodriguez’ behalf.
Dr. Davis is a professor at University of Nevada who specializes in psychology and law. Specifically, Dr. Davis focuses on the areas of: witness memory, false confessions, issues of sexual consent, rules of evidence, and jury research. Prior to her tenure at University of Nevada, Dr. Davis served as an assistant professor of psychology at Georgia State University and Southern Illinois University and as a post-doctoral research associate at Ohio State University, where she received her Ph.D. She also currently serves on the Faculty of the National Judicial College.
Attorney Thompson submitted a PowerPoint presentation that described the topics of Dr. Davis’ testimony. Prosecution took issue with the contents of the presentation.
Assistant District Attorney Steven Moore filed a motion that disputed the credibility of Dr. Davis on the issue of sexual consent. He wrote, “The use of statistical charts to prove consent or a defendant’s mental state is not admissible . . . . If it were, the people would call rape experts to show that only two percent to eight percent of women falsely report rape. I would then argue that just based on the report alone, our case is proved to be 92 percent to 98 percent accurate.”