RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Offer of Proof

RI Criminal Defense Practice Manual Cover
RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
© John E. MacDonald

 

CROSS-EXAMINATION

 

Offer of Proof

 

 

State v. Plunkett, 497 A.2d 725 (R.I. 1985). Defendant charged with embezzling money from the town of Richmond. Her defense was that the town’s accounting procedures were sloppy by nature and any discrepancies were good faith mistakes. Court refused to allow cross of state’s expert witness and R.I.S.C. reversed.

  • Trial court’s demand for an offer of proof was inappropriate. Cross-examination is necessarily explorative and should be given reasonable latitude. Also, the questioning was relevant in the defense of a very circumstantial case.

 

State v. Soto, 477 A.2d 945 (R.I. 1984). In attempting to cross-examine the state’s witness as to the victim’s reputation for violence, the trial court required defense counsel to make an offer of proof to “produce evidence to corroborate the threats.” R.I.S.C. reversed.

  • Trial court “may not properly require offers of proof with respect to inquiries made during cross-examination except in unusual and peculiar circumstances.” Id. at 948 (citing State v. Debarros, 441 A.2d 549, 551 (R.I. 1982).

 

State v. DeBarros, 441 A.2d 549 (R.I. 1982). In a trial involving an assault at the A.C.I., defendant attempted to cross-examine the complainant as to his intent to sue the state of R.I. The trial judge refused to allow cross and R.I.S.C. reversed.

  • This type of cross-examination goes to bias and the jury was entitled to it.
  • Cross-examination is by necessity explorative in nature so defendant’s counsel cannot be expected to give a full offer of proof.

 

State v. Peoples, 996 A.2d 660 (R.I. 2010). Defendant was not able to make an offer of proof before presenting a third-party perpetrator defense at his trial on child molestation charges. Unable to produce any evidence or even the identity of the alleged perpetrator, the defendant was prohibited from asking the boy’s aunt whether any other men spend the night at her apartment. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

  • “.where a defendant seeks in cross-examination to open up new avenues of inquiry concerning the possible motive of a third party to commit the crime of which the defendant is accused, the trial justice may properly exclude such evidence as a collateral matter- absent an offer of proof by the defendant tending to show the third person’s opportunity to commit the crime and a proximate connection between that person and the actual commission of the crime.” Id. at 665 (quoting State v. Brennan, 526 A.2d 483, 488 (R.I. 1987)) (emphasis in original).

 

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