Recently the Supreme Court of North Carolina considered for the first time the constitutionality of North Carolina's rape victim shield statute, N.C. GEN. STAT. § 8-58.6 (hereinafter referred to as G. S. 8-58.6, or "the statute"). In State v. Fortney, the court upheld the statute as free from constitutional defect. Mr. Justice Carlton, writing for the court, examined the defendant's argument that his constitutional right of confrontation had been violated because the statute prevented him from automatically questioning a prosecuting witness about her prior sexual experiences. The court did not concur. In upholding the statute, the court cited three reasons for rejecting the defendant's contentions: (1) there is no constitutional right to ask a witness irrelevant questions; (2) in its impact and application, G. S. 8-58.6 is primarily procedural and does not alter any of the defendant's substantive rights; and (3) valid policy reasons support the statute. The apparently liberal construction of its language may have weakened the statute's capacity to shield rape victims, but the Fortney court's interpretation significantly strengthened the statute's defense against constitutional attack.


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