Utah Court of Appeals affirms a rape conviction; reverses child sex abuse convictions and remands case for a new trial; affirms alimony award; sets aside municipal employee suspension and remands case; and affi...

State v Guzman

Guzman appealed his rape conviction. The panel affirmed. It held any error in excluding evidence of victim’s past truthful accusations of rape to bolster her recanting of accusations at preliminary hearing was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as the recanting never came into evidence and defense counsel decision was based on weighing the benefit of admitting the recanting against the potential admission of victim’s detailed account given to a detective which the state would have been allowed to introduce. It held hearsay statements by victim were properly admitted under Rule of Evidence 803(4) as they were made to a nurse attempting to learn about victim’s injuries in order to provide treatment and held Guzman failed to demonstrate any confrontation clause violation because his brief lacked any analysis on the issue and there was no settled law that victim identification of perpetrators during medical treated is inadmissible. It held there was no plain error in allowing a detective to testify he told Guzman victim accused him of rape as it was admitted for the purpose of explaining why Guzman was interviews by the police. It held the evidence was sufficient under plain error and ineffective assistance review as there was evidence victim accused Guzman of raping her and Guzman’s DNA was found in victim’s vagina. It finally rejected Guzman’s cumulative error argument as confidence in the outcome here was not undermined by the errors which may have occurred.

State v Williams

Williams appealed his child sex abuse convictions. The panel reversed and remanded for a new trial. It held the prosecutor improperly vouched for the alleged victims during voir dire by asking hypothetical questions and delivering lectures which closely followed the facts of this case, did not inquire into juror thoughts and attitudes, posed questions without awaiting response and thus were not designed to ferret out biases but were instead an attempt to influence the jury to see the victims here as credible. Noting the issue of when voir dire crosses the line into vouching is one of first impression, the panel held that the proper purpose of voir dire is ferreting out bias and the prosecutor here departed from that purpose and relied upon case law form other jurisdictions to reinforce its holding that error occurred on these facts. It held plain error was proven as the voir dire here tainted the jury from the outset and the case turned on the credibility of the alleged victims.

Munoz-Madrid v Carlos-Moran

Carlos-Moran appealed the award of alimony to Munoz-Madrid. The panel affirmed holding documentation was not required to prove a need for alimony and Munoz-Madrid provided some evidence of her rent and utilities expenses which allowed the district court to make permissible findings about need and setting the amount of alimony.

Palmer v St. George City Council et al.

Palmer petitioned for review of an appeals board decision upholding her suspension without pay. The panel set aside the decision and remanded. It held there was no violation of Palmer’s right to counsel when her attorney was barred from a pre-discipline meeting as the statutory right to counsel in Utah Code 10-3-1106 only comes into play after discipline is imposed and no discipline was imposed at the meeting. It rejected Palmer’s argument that the one hour limit on presenting evidence violated due proves as cross examination was excluded from the limit, Palmer was able to submit hundreds of pages of documentation and she did not identify any prejudice from the limit. It rejected Palmer’s argument that the city attorney advising the police chief during the investigation and board during the hearing violated due process because both the meeting and the board hearing were part of the investigative process and the City was represented by private counsel at the board hearing. It held that Palmer’s due process rights were violated when the board refused to order discovery of discipline for similar conduct as Utah case law assigned the burden of proof as to disparate treatment on the employee and grants a right to information about cases involving similar conduct and there is no requirement that Palmer use the state freedom of information act to get the information. It finally held that the board abused its discretion when it failed to articulate its factual findings supporting its decision.

State v Roberts

Roberts appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. The panel affirmed holding evidence that prescription medications were found in Roberts’ house for people who did not live there and two bottles contained mixed pills was sufficient to create probable cause to search the house for other prescription drugs and controlled substances.