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State v. Smith

    Brief Fact Summary. Rachael Conlin was attacked and severely beaten. Shortly thereafter she identified her attacker, but likely out of fear, during trial she changed her testimony and identified another man as her assailant.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Prior inconsistent statements may be used as substantive evidence if it is a reliable statement.

    Facts. Rachael Conlin was severely assaulted in a motel room in Pasco, Washington on July 10, 1980. At the hospital, she told a police officer that Defendant, Nova Smith, was the assailant. Conlin would later come to the police station and write out what happened and who the assailant was, again identifying Defendant. That same day, police were called to help Conlin when she was being pursued by the Defendant. At trial, Conlin surprisingly changed her testimony and identified another man as the assailant. The prosecution offered her prior written statement to impeach her testimony. The trial judge initially ruled that the statement was admissible but changed his mind and granted a new trial.

    Issue. Was the out of court statement by Conlin sufficiently reliable to allow it to be admitted?

    Held. Justice Dimmick issued the opinion for the Washington Supreme Court and held that the out of court statement was reliable and should have been admitted, and the Court remanded to the trial court with instruction to reinstate the verdict and sentence the defendant.

    Discussion. In looking to determine reliability, the Court noted that the witness-victim voluntarily wrote the statement herself, swore to it under oath with penalty of perjury before a notary, admitted at trial she had made the statement, and gave an inconsistent statement at trial subject to cross examination.


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