Law School Case Brief
Anderson v. State - 1982 OK CR 45, 644 P.2d 108
In a criminal case, certain features are present when an evidentiary harpoon is found: (1) they are generally made by experienced police officers; (2) they are voluntary statements; (3) they are willfully jabbed rather than inadvertent; (4) they inject information indicating other crimes; (5) they are calculated to prejudice the defendant; and (6) they are prejudicial to the rights of the defendant on trial.
Defendant-appellant Andy Anderson was convicted of kidnapping, anal sodomy, oral sodomy, assault and battery with intent to kill, and robbery in the first degree, all after former conviction of a felony, as well as larceny of an automobile. Anderson contended that Officer Smith’s statement during cross-examination that Anderson was an escapee from the penitentiary amounted to an evidentiary harpoon.
In defendant's criminal trial applying the six-factor Bruner test, did the statement by Officer Smith amount to an evidentiary harpoon that required reversal of the conviction?
The Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma determined that Officer Smith’s statement fell within the first five Bruner criteria for an evidentiary harpoon. Therefore, the dispositive question was whether the statement required the Court to reverse the conviction. Upon consideration of the sixth Bruner factor--the statement was prejudicial to the rights of the defendant on trial--the Court held that the statement was not so prejudicial as to require reversal in view of the overwhelming evidence establishing defendant Anderson's guilt. The Court determined that the victims' positive identification, the analysis of hair samples, and additional circumstantial evidence introduced at trial overwhelmingly established Anderson's guilt. Affirming the judgment and the sentence, the Court was convinced that the improper officer's statement did not affect the verdict. The Court also found that Officer Smith's statement did not unduly prejudice the jury during the sentencing stage and that the sentence did not require modification.
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