Defense Seeks Mental Health Records In Rape Case

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A defendant in a rape case who is seeking the mental health records of his accuser has won a partial victory in court, but it remains to be seen if the defense actually gets access to the documents.

Shannon C. Williams, 41, was indicted last year by an Athens County grand jury on charges of rape and theft. He is accused raping a woman at an Athens apartment and taking a debit card, according to court records. The case is pending in Athens County Common Pleas Court.

Williams’ attorney, Assistant Ohio Public Defender Douglas Francis, filed a motion last month seeking access to the woman’s mental health records from Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare and Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling.

According to the motion, Williams’ response to the rape allegation will be that the sex was consensual.

“…The defense firmly believes that the mental health of (the accuser) is supremely important in this case where the case will be decided on the credibility of the witnesses,” Francis wrote.

He argues that Williams has a constitutional right to put on a defense, and that denying access to the mental health records would deny Williams’ right to have the prosecution’s case survive “meaningful adversarial testing.”

The Athens County Prosecutor’s Office filed a response asking Judge George McCarthy to deny the request for the records, arguing in part that it would violate the victim’s right to privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Following a hearing on the matter, McCarthy granted the defense motion in part, but that does not necessarily mean the defense will have access to the documents. McCarthy ordered Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare and Tri-County Mental Health to provide the documents under seal to the court. McCarthy said in his ruling that he will view the records privately and determine if they contain “evidence material to the defense of the accused.”