Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Opinion testimony for purposes of allowing opinion testimony as to a witness's character for truthfulness or untruthfulness does not require the foundation of reputation testimony follows from an analysis of the nature of the evidence involved. The reputation witness must have sufficient acquaintance with the principal witness and his community in order to ensure that the testimony adequately reflects the community's assessment. In contrast, opinion testimony is a personal assessment of character. The opinion witness is not relating community feelings, the testimony is solely the impeachment witness's own impression of an individual's character for truthfulness. Hence, a foundation of long acquaintance is not required for opinion testimony. Of course, the opinion witness must testify from personal knowledge. But once that basis is established the witness should be allowed to state his opinion, cross-examination can be expected to expose defects.
Defendant Alvaro De Jesus Valdez Hernendez and the complaining witness previously had what was characterized as a “stormy” romantic relationship from 1991 until February 2003, when Defendant moved out of the apartment they shared together. The complaining witness had a domestic violence protective order against Defendant from April 2003 until April 2004. In November 2004, Defendant allegedly attacked the complaining witness, leading to the filing of second-degree rape, assault on a female, communicating threats, injury to personal property, harassing phone calls, and interfering with telephone lines against the Defendant. According to Defendant's testimony at trial, he and the complaining witness resumed their romantic relationship in either September or October 2004. Defendant also presented three defense witnesses to testify on the complaining witness’ character for truthfulness or untruthfulness. The trial court refused to allow the testimonies. Defendant was found guilty of the charges. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by refusing to allow the opinion testimony of three defense witnesses.
Did the trial court err in refusing to allow the opinion testimony of three defense witnesses?
The appellate court held that it was error to exclude the evidence. A foundation was not required, and the victim did not have to have been shown to have been untruthful on a particular occasion. The three witnesses testified to having personal knowledge of the victim and to having formed an opinion as to her character for untruthfulness. As such, the exclusion of the opinion testimony of the defense witnesses was error. The State's case rested almost exclusively on the victim's testimony against defendant. Because the victim did not report the alleged rape until over two weeks after the night of the incident, and defendant admitted to having sexual intercourse with her, albeit claiming it was consensual, there was little or no physical or medical evidence, and it largely came down to a "he said, she said" situation. Thus, the credibility of the victim was of significant probative value, and the error was prejudicial under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1443(a) (2005).