The Appellate Group

State v. Soto

State v. Soto, 2022 UT App 107 (Hagen, J.)


Victim attempted to break up a fight between Soto and Soto’s girlfriend after Soto pulled a knife on her. Soto chased Victim away from the vicinity, stabbed him, and returned back alone. The only witness who saw Soto chase Victim away and return alone was Sarah. The stabbing was also vaguely caught on security camera footage, which was admitted at trial narrated by a detective. The detective also testified about Sarah’s statements, repeating them and commenting on their consistency with the rest of the evidence. Another witness testified that he heard someone say “get that knife away from her throat” when Soto was straddling girlfriend on the ground. After Soto was convicted of murder, Soto appealed his conviction, arguing that his counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to object to certain evidence at trial. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • Soto has not shown prejudice. No reasonable jury would have reached a difference result if (1) the detective who testified at trial had not narrated the video, (2) had not repeated Sarah’s testimony that she saw Soto chase Victim down the street and that only Soto returned, and (3) had not commented on the consistency of Sarah’s testimony or the strength of the evidence.
  • Trial counsel could have reasonably concluded that the statement “get that knife away from her throat” fell under the present sense impression exception to the rule against admitting hearsay at trial. Because the statement arguably fell under a recognized exception, it was not unreasonable for counsel to conclude that it was admissible, and that any objection would be futile.

Read the full court opinion