The Appellate Group

State v. Mitchell

State v. Mitchell, 2023 UT App 42 (Christiansen Forster, J.)


Mitchell was found guilty at a jury trial of one count of rape of a child and two
counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Mitchell raised three errors on
appeal: (1) improper expert testimony by a detective who was not disclosed or
qualified as an expert, (2) deficient jury instructions regarding the elements of
rape of a child, and (3) deficient jury instructions that did not include a specific
unanimity instruction. Mitchell brought all claims under ineffective assistance of
counsel and plain error. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed Mitchell’s
, holding:

  • Counsel planned a sound legal defense strategy on the detective’s anticipated testimony about interview techniques.
  • Mitchell was not prejudiced by any defective jury instructions.
  • Practice tip: Preservation requires proper objections and rulings by the district court. A district court merely “expressing concern” about an issue is likely an insufficient preservation argument.
  • Practice tip: When relevant terms or phrases are not specifically defined by statute, take steps to ensure the jury instructions incorporate any relevant clarifications provided by Utah appellate courts.

Read the full court opinion