The Appellate Group

State v. Barnes

State v. Barnes, 2023 UT App 148 (Harris, J.)


Defendant was convicted of object rape and forcible sexual abuse of his fourteen- year-old Stepdaughter. Defendant appealed arguing Stepdaughter’s testimony was inherently improbable, that there was insufficient evidence supporting the penetration element of the object rape charge, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • Stepdaughter’s testimony was not inherently improbable and could therefore be considered in the sufficiency-of-the-evidence analysis. And with Stepdaughter’s testimony included, the State presented sufficient evidence below to support Defendant’s convictions.
  • Defendant’s trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance by electing to forgo a request for a lesser-included-offense instruction.
  • Practice tip: Relative lack of corroborating evidence does not automatically substantiate a Robbins claim, but rather, relative lack of corroboration is just one factor.
  • Judicial tip: Even though “context” is not specifically listed among the factors that courts evaluating Robbins claims ought to consider, there is no reason why courts should not consider contextual maters in evaluating whether a witness’s testimony is inherently improbable.

Read the full court opinion