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People v. Mountain

    Brief Fact Summary. The plaintiff was being held for arraignment in a detention cell. The defendant was a police officer who was accused of entering the cell and raping the plaintiff. The plaintiff seeks to have admitted incriminating semen evidence of the defendant that shows he is guilty.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In a prosecution for rape, proof that the defendant has the same common blood type as the man who is responsible for the crime is admissible unless prejudice is shown.


    Facts. The plaintiff was being held for arraignment in a detention cell at a police station. The defendant was a police officer who was assigned to the station as a telephone operator. The defendant made several attempts to communicate with the plaintiff and even offered to help her pay her bail. On Sunday afternoon the defendant came to the plaintiff’s cell and threatened to kill her if she screamed. The defendant proceeded to rape her. The plaintiff was able to retain semen evidence of the defendant and produced it for a hospital test. At trial, evidence showed that the semen came from a man with the blood type “A”. The defendant successfully objected to the introduction of evidence of his blood type and claimed that the plaintiff was only suing him to recover a substantial monetary amount. The jury found the defendant guilty of rape, sodomy and official misconduct.

    Issue.

    Whether evidence that showed that the defendant had type “A” blood and that the perpetrator of the crime had type “A” blood was prejudicial to the defendant?

    Whether a party can bolster a plaintiff’s credibility with respect to motive for bringing a civil suit?

    Whether the defendant’s holster could have been excluded from evidence?

    Held.

    When identity is an issue, proof that the defendant and the perpetrator share similar physical characteristics is not rendered inadmissible simply because those characteristics are also shared by large segments of the population. The defendant was not prejudiced by the blood test evidence since there was no evidence that he himself had the same blood type as the perpetrator.

    The prosecutor was allowed to present evidence that rebutted the defendant’s assertion that the plaintiff was only suing the defendant to collect a large award. Testimonial evidence that the plaintiff was going to donate all her awards to a rape crisis organization was relevant to show that the plaintiff did not have a pecuniary motive for testifying falsely against the defendant.

    The defendant’s holster was correctly excluded from the evidence. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s story could not have happened as she described it because of the holster he was wearing. However, the defendant failed to establish a proper foundation to show that the holster he provided to the court was the same that he wore on the day of the crime. There was no direct evidence that was presented that supported the defendant’s assertion that he wore the holster on the day of the crime.

    Dissent. Judge Meyer filed a dissenting opinion and objected to the exclusion from evidence of the holster and testimony about the plaintiff’s lack of pecuniary interest in the suit.

    The weapon should not have been excluded since it contradicted statements made by the plaintiff about whether the defendant was wearing a gun. The error was not harmless since the evidence was far from overwhelming. The plaintiff was the only witness to the act and the other officers who were working nearby did not hear anything.

    Admission of the plaintiff concerning the donation of the proceeds of her suit was in error. The plaintiff never testified herself that she intended to make such a donation and the defendant’s attorneys objection based on hearsay grounds was sufficient.


    Discussion. When identity is at issue, proof that the defendant and the perpetrator share similar characteristics is not rendered inadmissible simply because those characteristics are also shared by large segments of the population. This means that evidence regarding the skin color or gender of a person is not excluded merely because it includes roughly 50% to 80% of the population. Fear that such evidence would be prejudicial can be avoided by instructions that the evidence is only circumstantial.


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