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Massachusetts Appellate Court Denies new trial motion in Rape case when evidence of Date Rape drug was presented despite negative test result

Massachusetts Appellate Court Denies Man New Rape Trial 

Many rapes happen while the victim is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. Victims are often tested for the presence of drugs at a hospital following their assault. However, may a court allow an expert testimony regarding GHB, known as a “date rape drug,” even when the victim tested negative for the drug? The Massachusetts Appellate Court recently decided this question in Commonwealth v. Hoime.  

What happened in the Hoime case? 

Christopher Hoime met a woman at a nightclub where she worked as a dancer. She gave the Hoime her number. They texted from time to time and would meet at the nightclub. After declining many invitations, Susan and Hoime went out for drinks. After having about three drinks Hoime checked into a hotel. They continued bar hopping and at one point he tried to kiss Susan which she refused, and after apologizing, they drank more. However, after a second glass of wine at a third bar, Susan claimed she went into a “black hole” and does not remember what happened after. She recalled fragments of memory, being locked into the hotel room with no pants on. She woke up and felt like she could not move and felt Hoime on top of her. When she woke up the next morning, she felt groggy. She noticed that her tampon had been removed and placed on the bedside table. 

Susan left the room and called multiple friends told them she had been raped. She went to the hospital because she believed she was drugged and wanted to be tested for drugs. A sexual assault evidence kit was completed, but Susan did not yet report the incident to the police. Three months later, she reported the incident to police. Hoime’s sperm matched the samples on Susan, however, her urine and blood tested negative for GHB, also known as the “date rape drug.” But, because GHB is a central nervous system depressant, the toxicologist testified that the drug can pass through the system in less than seventeen hours. 

Hoime appeals and claims that the toxicologist should have not been permitted to testify about the effects of GHB on the human body, because he was not charged with rape by drugging. The toxicologist testified that Susan’s symptoms weere consistent with the effect of GHB. 

In evidence law, the judge had wide discretion when it comes to what witnesses are permitted to testify at trial. The question for the judge is whether the witness has sufficient skill, knowledge, and experience in the area of her training to aid a jury. The toxicologist in this case had a degree in forensic science and was a supervisor at a crime lab. She has been working in the field since 1999, and in toxicology specifically since 2005. She estimated that she had tested around 1,500 human samples for the presence of toxins. The testimony of the toxicologist was to show that a negative test does not rule out GHB ingestion. The jury was permitted to infer that Susan was drugged and was simply tested too late. Hoime was denied a new trial and will remain in prison. 

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