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Law School Case Brief

Smith v. Commonwealth - 920 S.W.2d 514 (Ky. 1995)

Rule:

A witness cannot be corroborated by proof that on previous occasions he has made the same statements as those made in his testimony. Where, however, a witness has been assailed on the ground that his story is a recent fabrication, or that he has some motive for testifying falsely, proof that he gave a similar account of the matter when the motive did not exist, before the effect of such an account could be foreseen, or when motive or interest would have induced a different statement, is admissible.

Facts:

Defendant Carl Smith was convicted in Kentucky state court upon a jury verdict of guilty on two counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of sexual abuse against his seven-year-old step-granddaughter. A total sentence of 24 years' imprisonment was imposed. Smith challenged the conviction, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by permitting a detective to testify about prior consistent statements by the child, which only served to bolster the credibility of the child's trial testimony. The State argued that the trial court did not err in admitting the testimony since Smith's theory of the case (that the child's story was fabricated and continued "growing") opened the door for the State to rebut the allegation. 

Issue:

Did the trial court err in admitting the testimony of the detective?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The commonwealth's highest court reversed and remanded the case, holding that given the lack of probativeness of the detective's testimony and the consistency of the child's motive, the admission of the detective's testimony concerning prior consistent statements of the victim witness as a prior consistent statement constituted reversible error. Nevertheless, the court held that Smith's constitutional rights were not violated with regard to the statements he made after invoking his Miranda rights because Smith voluntarily re-initiated contact with the police and made the statements. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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