State v. Sarich

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 11-01-2012
  • Case #: S059928
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: De Muniz, J. for the Court; En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under OEC 601, an inquiry regarding whether an individual is competent enough to testify involves gathering whether that person has the ability to perceive, recollect, and communicate in a worthwhile manner.

The State appealed the trial court’s order determining that a witness was not competent to testify at trial and the exclusion of the witnesses’ prior statements. Defendant was last seen with the victim, the caregiver for Defendant’s son, Z, in January 2007. The Defendant was the subject of the police investigation and was charged with aggravated murder after a detective interviewed Z, three years later. Z made eight drawings leading detectives to believe he was a witness to the murder and then participated in leading detectives to the location of the body. At trial, the court concluded Z was not competent to testify because he could not discuss with particularity certain past events or individuals. The State then moved to admit Z’s video, statements, and drawings, but the court held their admission would violate OEC 403. The State appealed the trial court’s decision to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that the trial court’s ruling was correct because Z did not have the ability to “make his perceptions known to others” and that it was not “worthwhile for the person to testify.” Secondly, the video depicting Z with the detectives was suggestive, leading, and circumstantial of Defendant’s guilt. Finally, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling regarding the inadmissibility of the drawings because the videos and drawings were offered together and since the video was inadmissible, the remaining evidence was also inadmissible. Affirmed and remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings.

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