State v. Hickman

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 03-20-2013
  • Case #: A144741
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Schuman, P.J. for the Court; Wollheim, J.; and Nakamoto J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Lawson/James test determines reliability of eyewitness identification evidence in Oregon.

Defendant was convicted of murder and appealed the lower court’s decision to permit two eyewitness identifications of Defendant as the shooter during trial. Neither witness identified a suspect in a police line up or by photo before the trial, but they did provide generic descriptions of the shooter before trial. During trial, the first witness identified Defendant as the person “with a gun in the street” after recognizing Defendant in the hallway outside of the courtroom. Defense objected under OEC 403, for unfair prejudice, but was overruled. The second witness also identified Defendant as the shooter over objection from defense. The Court of Appeals applied the Lawson/James test, which focuses on the reliability of the identification as evidence, to determine that the “system variables weigh heavily against reliability.” Applying Lawson/James, The Court of Appeals found that the in-court witness identifications were unduly prejudicial because both witnesses were unable to identify the shooter in the crime in the two years preceding trial, their descriptions of the shooter before trial were generic, and both witnesses were under stress at the time of the crime. Reversed and remanded.

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