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State v. Argueta

State v. Argueta, 2020 UT 41 (Himonas, J., majority; Lee, A.C.J., concurring)

Criminal

Police arrested the defendant and told him that a complainant said he had inappropriately touched her. After invoking his Miranda rights, the defendant refuted that allegation and offered an explanation. At trial, the defendant elaborated on his explanation. The State cross-examined the defendant on his elaborated statement and mentioned the discrepancies between the statements in closing argument. The district court also admitted into evidence the defendant’s prior bad acts. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • The Court lacked information to determine whether the prior bad acts evidence should have been admitted under the doctrine of chances, but even if it had been admitted improperly, its admission was harmless. 
  • The Court does not decide whether the State violated the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights when the State sought to impeach the defendant’s credibility by highlighting exculpatory details that the defendant mentioned at trial by omitted in an earlier post-Miranda-invocation police statement. Even if the comments were improper, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • Concurrence: The concurring judge would have held that the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights were not violated, because there is no constitutional bar on a prosecutor’s comments highlighting inconsistencies between a story told voluntarily in a pretrial investigation and a story told voluntarily at trial.

Read the full court opinion

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