EDWIN DARNELL ROGERS

In a 4-3 decision today the Arkansas Supreme Court reinstated a rape conviction of Edward Darnell Rogers that had been reversed by the Arkansas Court of Appeals because Pulaski Circuit Judge Herb Wright didn’t allow the defense to offer evidence of a past misdemeanor theft conviction of one of the three victims.

The court majority, in an opinion written by Justice Rhonda Wood, agreed that Wright should have allowed testimony about a victim’s criminal record, but said it was a harmless error because of “overwhelming” evidence of guilt. Chief Justice Dan Kemp, Karen Baker and Jo Hart dissented. In an opinion by Baker, they said the case turned on the credibility of the victims. It was a “he-said, she-said” case and thus any evidence that had a bearing on credibility was important.

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Rogers was charged with the rape of four sisters who were under 18 at the time. He had a romantic relationship with their mother and lived with the girls and they said he assaulted them over a period of years. He denied all the allegations and said the mother had encouraged the girls to testify against him because she was mad at him.

Here’s the opinion.

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Justice Shawn Womack joined the majority but said the court should reconsider its standard of viewing theft as a crime involving dishonesty.

Rogers was sentenced to 40 years on the convictions as a habitual offender.

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