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National Crime Victim Law Institute

State v. Porter, — S.W.3d —, No. SC93851, 2014 WL 3729864 (Mo. July 29, 2014) (en banc).

September 03, 2014

Defendant, who was convicted of two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree, appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal because the victim’s testimony was contradictory and lacked corroboration. Historically, Missouri courts have imposed a “corroboration rule,” which requires a victim’s testimony to be corroborated if it is contradictory or when “the appellate court’s review of the evidence raises some undetermined level of uncertainty regarding the evidentiary support for the conviction.” On review in this case, the Missouri Supreme Court examined the corroboration rule and ultimately abolished it because: (1) the corroboration rule requires appellate courts to engage in credibility determinations that are the province of the factfinder; and (2) the rule, which applies only to sex crimes, is premised on improper assumptions that the testimony of victims of sex offenses is inherently less credible than the testimony of other crime victims and that factfinders in sex cases are uniquely unable to make accurate factual determinations. Instead, the court concluded that “[t]here is no reason to assume that the victim of a sexual assault is less credible than the victim of a non-sexual assault, a robbery or any other crime.” The court also abolished the “destructive contradictions” doctrine, which permits an appellate court to disregard testimony it “determines is inherently incredible, self-destructive or opposed to known physical facts with respect to an element of the crime.” Although the destructive contradictions doctrine is not limited to cases involving sex offenses, the court found that it, too, requires appellate courts to engage in credibility determinations that “are properly left to judges and juries sitting as triers of fact.” Finally, applying the generally applicable standard of review, the court found there to be sufficient evidence to support defendant’s convictions. For this and other reasons, defendant’s convictions were affirmed.

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