Thursday, October 27, 2011

Featured Case - Hall - Confession expert, evidence issues and discovery of witness statements

Steven Hall v. Commonwealth
No. 2010-Ca-001878-MR

Appeal From Boyle Circuit Court
Hon. Darren W. Peckler, Judge
Action No. 09-Cr-00101

Opinion Affirming, (Caperton, Combs and Thompson)
Steven Hall was operating a pontoon boat when he struck and killed his wife, Isabel.  He was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to five-years’ imprisonment.  Four issues were decided:

(1) Expert testimony regasrding coerced confessions was inadmissible for the purpose of attacking the credibility of a police officer’s in-court testimony, distinguishing Terry v. Commonwealth, 332 S.W.3d 56 (Ky. 2010) on the facts because Hall didn’t testify and presented no evidence that his statements to the officers were coerced.  Thus the expert’s opinion wasn’t relevant.

(2) Evidence that Hall had a romantic interest in a woman other than Isabel was harmless error given the number of people who saw Hall run over his wife, but error because there was absolutely no evidence that Hall and the other woman had a sexual relationship or that the two planned a future. 
(3) It was not error to permit testimony that Hall intentionally accelerated the boat toward Isabel because the witnesses did not testify that Hall intended to kill Isabel but testified only to the facts as they were observed.  Also he was   convicted of recklessness, not intent.

(4) The Commonwealth didn’t fail to give defense counsel witness statements in violation of RCr 7.26.  The witness was interviewed twice and conveyed verbally to the officer that Hall waived Isabel’s dead hand. A witness is not required to confine testimony to “the four corners of his or her written statement.”  The remedy is cross-examination.ditions through the art of cross-examination.

Contributed by Susan Balliet