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RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
© John E. MacDonald
Vouching takes place “when the government states or insinuates that it possesses special knowledge that its witness is testifying truthfully or if the prosecution places the prestige of the government behind the witness.”
State v. Chakouian, 537 A.2d 409, 412 (R.I. 1988).
State v. Webber, 716 A.2d 738 (R.I. 1998). In a first-degree arson case, a fire marshal’s testimony that an accelerant-sniffing dog was more sensitive to the presence of accelerants than a lab test constituted impermissible vouching. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.
State v. Miller, 679 A.2d 867 (R.I. 1996). In a rape trial, the police detective’s testimony that lay witnesses sometimes have important information that has to be drawn out constituted impermissible witness vouching. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.
State v. Haslam, 663 A.2d 902 (R.I. 1995). Defendant was convicted of first-degree child molestation against his stepdaughter. At trial, the complainant’s counselor testified that she was treating her for sexual abuse recovery. Counselor also testified about who the complainant claimed didn’t molest her (implying defendant had by elimination). A DCYF worker also testified that she found the defendant’s claim of a sexual assault against the complainant by another person unfounded. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.
State v. Castore, 435 A.2d 321 (R.I. 1981). It was prejudicial error for a physician to express a factual opinion about whether a sexual assault occurred based upon what the patient told him as opposed to any medical tests or diagnosis. Such an opinion is beyond the realm of his medical capabilities and amounts to vouching for the patient’s credibility. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.
State v. Roderigues, 656 A.2d 192 (R.I. 1995). In a second-degree child molestation case, defendant called a social worker to testify about the complainant’s smiley face drawing. On cross, the state elicited testimony that complainant was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of sexual abuse by the defendant. R.I.S.C. reversed.
State v. Lassiter, 836 A.2d 1096 (R.I. 2003). A detective testified that the state’s only eyewitness to a murder was not being truthful when he first stated that he could not identify the shooter. The state introduced this testimony to bolster the credibility of the witness who subsequently identified the defendant. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded.
State v. Perez, 882 A.2d 574 (R.I. 2005). Trial court denied defense counsel’s motion to sequester state’s rebuttal witness, a psychiatric expert intended to refute defendant’s diminished capacity defense. R.I.S.C. affirmed.
State v. Diefenderfer, 970 A.2d 12 (R.I. 2009). Defendant argued that admitting witness’s cooperation agreement into evidence constituted improper vouching for the witness’s credibility. R.I.S.C. upheld the trial court’s decision.
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