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State v. Wirfs

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 05-31-2012
Case #: A143423
Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Schuman, P. J.; and Wollheim, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A143423.pdf

Criminal Law: An error is not harmless when a criminal defendant is precluded from rebutting the state's argument due to sustained objections to the defense's direct questions. Additionally, the scope of redirect examination cannot exceed that which was covered during cross examination.

Defendant appealed his jury conviction. A.S., a 14 year-old, reported that Defendant performed oral sex on him while A.S. was sleeping at Defendant's home. A.S., and his 12 year old step-brother, A.L., also claimed that, on another occasion, Defendant performed oral sex on both boys while they slept at Defendant's home. Defendant later confessed to such actions. During trial, the State objected to two questions addressed to the defense's expert witness that concerned Defendant’s alleged immature social age. The State argued that the questions were outside the scope of redirect examination. The trial court sustained the State’s objections and the jury found Defendant guilty of second and third-degree sodomy. The Court of Appeals held that under Oregon case law, the scope of redirect examination cannot exceed that which was covered in cross examination. Therefore, the trial court's error was not harmless because the defenses’ questions tended to rebut the State’s allegation that Defendant was not pressured into confessing. Reversed and remanded.