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State v. Stricklan

State v. Stricklan, 2020 UT App 65 (Pearce, J., majority; Durrant, C.J., dissenting)

Criminal

Ten-year-old Child told the police that the defendant had touched her on her breast and buttocks. The defendant told the police that he had no recollection of touching Child. The State charged the defendant with inappropriately touching Child. At trial, Child testified that what she told the police was a lie. At the end of the State’s case, the defendant moved for a directed verdict. The court denied the verdict, and the jury convicted the defendant. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • An out-of-court statement can be sufficient evidence to dispel reasonable doubt if the witness can be questioned at trial regarding the change in the witness’s story, and the prior statement, if believed, establishes the elements of the charged crime. The Court does not overrule State v. Webb, 779 P.2d 1108 (Utah 1989) and State v. Ramsey, 782 P.2d 480 (Utah 1989), where the Court said that an uncorroborated hearsay statement that is denied at trial is not sufficient to support a verdict, but the Court limits those cases to their facts and refocuses the question on the ultimate determination of whether the State produced sufficient evidence to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • The totality of the evidence presented to the jury was enough to permit the jury to believe that Child’s initial police report that the defendant had inappropriately touched her was correct and that her recantation was motivated not by a desire to set the record straight but to ameliorate the negative consequences of the defendant’s absence from Child’s home.
  • The State presented sufficient evidence that the defendant had the intent to cause pain or arouse sexual desire. Child reported to the police that the defendant had touched both her breasts and her butt, negating any suggestion of accidental touching. And the jury could reasonably infer that when a grown man enters the room of a child after she goes to bed and touches her, that the purpose of such touching was sexual gratification. 
  • Dissent: The dissenting justices would have applied the rule in Webb and Ramsey and would have concluded that Child’s previous hearsay claim—upon which the conviction is entirely based—is insufficient to establish the elements of sexual abuse.

Read the full court opinion

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