State v. G.R.M.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 08-12-2015
  • Case #: A151158
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Duncan, P.J. for the Court; & Haselton, C.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Evidence that a complaining witness instigated physical altercations with a criminal defendant is sufficient for a jury to potentially find that witness biased and may be used as evidence for the purpose of impeachment.

Defendant, on trial for fourth-degree assault stemming from domestic violence and harassment, attempted to introduce evidence that the complaining witness was biased. Defendant attempted to use evidence that the witness had physically attacked Defendant on three separate occasions to assert that the witness had fabricated her claims as a result of her bias. The trial court did not allow evidence of these altercations. Defendant was acquitted of the assault charge but convicted of harassment. Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was proper evidence of bias, and that excluding the evidence violated Defendant’s confrontation rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The State contended that if the trial court erred, the error was harmless. On appeal, the Court found that evidence of the physical altercations between the complaining witness and Defendant were relevant evidence of the witness’s bias against Defendant, and as such constituted admissible impeachment evidence. The Court found further that this error was great enough to warrant reversal because it may have substantially prejudiced the jury’s perception of the case. Reversed and remanded.

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