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Rape Victim’s Diary to Stay Confidential, Judge Rules

Times Staff Writer

A Riverside Municipal Court judge ruled Friday that a 43-year-old mother of two who was raped nearly a year ago does not have to turn over her diary to the man accused of attacking her.

The victim began keeping the journal after the attack as part of a therapy program. She wrote her thoughts in it and shared them with her therapist because she had been too traumatized by the attack to talk about it.

A defense attorney had subpoenaed the diary as evidence potentially useful to James Charles Stark, 41, the man accused of the rape.

Agreeing with both the prosecution and attorneys for the victim, Judge Robert T. Peterson ruled that the private writings of the victim are protected by a 1987 state law guaranteeing the confidentiality of therapist-patient communications.

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‘Chilling Effect’ on Others

Giving the diary to the defense would not only be “deleterious to the victim” but would have “a chilling effect on other victims who were setting down their innermost feelings and thoughts,” Peterson said.

Peterson also rejected Deputy Public Defender Floyd Zagorsky’s request that the court take control of the document pending a possible appeal by the defense.

Zagorsky made it clear that he has not given up in his effort to gain access to the journal and said an appeal is under consideration. He contends that it could contain evidence “essential to my client’s case.”

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Wayne Astin, who supported the victim’s right to retain the journal, said, “We are very pleased with the ruling.”

Precedent Considered

Astin, the woman’s therapist, Georgia Kline, and other rape victim advocates argued that release of the diary to the defense could set a dangerous precedent for rape victims who use such writing to aid in their recovery.

Astin argued that communications between the woman and Kline, a state-licensed marriage, family and child therapist with a master’s degree in psychology, were shielded by the 1987 law. The law applies to psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and marriage, family and child counselors.

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But Zagorsky cited a 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling in Sacramento in 1986 that said a therapist in another case should have been ordered to turn over his notes to the trial court judge for review.


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