The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Conyac on Thursday, January 30, 2014.
Sexual Assault on a Child—Challenge for Cause—Expert Testimony—Motive—CRE 404(b)—Rape Shield Statute—Prosecutorial Misconduct.
KT informed her mother, LC, that defendant, her stepfather, had molested her. A jury found defendant guilty of three counts of incest; three counts of sexual assault on a child—position of trust; and one count of sexual assault on a child—position of trust pattern of abuse.
On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying a challenge for cause to a juror who stated that her niece had been sexually assaulted and murdered by her sister’s live-in boyfriend. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Because the juror also stated she could consider the evidence in the case and make a decision and follow the presumption of innocence, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s challenge for cause.
Defendant claimed the trial court erroneously allowed two unqualified prosecution witnesses to testify as experts. The Court reviewed the trial court’s admission of expert testimony and found no abuse of discretion.
The Court disagreed that the officer’s testimony was an improper commentary on defendant’s credibility. The Court found that the testimony was an explanation of the officer’s interview tactics.
The Court agreed with the trial court ruling that a defendant’s prior attempt or request to have anal sex with his spouse may be relevant concerning motive in a child sexual abuse trial, provided the evidence otherwise satisfies CRE 404(b). Here, the evidence related to a material fact and it had logical relevance.
Defendant asserted that the court erroneously excluded evidence of the pending dependency and neglect case concerning LC. The Court disagreed, ruling that exclusion of this additional evidence did not contribute to the guilty verdict.
Defendant argued that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of KT’s prior sexual knowledge and familiarity with sexual assault investigations, because the evidence was relevant to rebut the “natural assumption” that KT could only know about such facts from defendant and to support his defense that KT’s allegations were aimed at removing him from the home because she disliked his rules and disciplinary efforts. The Court disagreed, finding that KT was old enough to know about sexual matters regardless of her experience with defendant and there was alternative evidence of KT’s outside sexual knowledge. In addition, the prosecution did not argue that KT was sexually naïve and had no other source of sexual knowledge.
Defendant also claimed that prosecutorial misconduct in the rebuttal closing argument required reversal. The Court disagreed. The prosecutor used rhetorical devices and argument to point out the weaknesses of defendant’s theory of the case. Although the prosecutor made an erroneous statement regarding the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, it was not plain error. The Court also rejected defendant’s challenge of the constitutionality of the rape shield statute and the Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision, as well as the determination of his habitual criminal charges without a jury. The judgment was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.