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Oregon Supreme Ct - March 30, 2017

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by: Sara Werboff • March 31, 2017 • no comments

Eyewitness ID - Defendant Entitled to Remand for Lawson/James Hearing

The supreme court concludes that defendant is entitled to a remand so that the trial court can conduct a hearing on the admissibility of eyewitness testimony under the Lawson/James framework. Defendant was convicted for assaulting the victim outside of a bar. The victim and defendant, and other members of defendant’s outlaw motorcycle group, the Vagos, were in the bar together for about two hours. After the assault, the victim, who was badly injured, gave a statement to police and said that he could not recognize specific individuals. Five days later, the victim gave an interview at the police station. The detective showed the victim photos of Vagos members, and made numerous suggestive comments and gave confirming feedback. Defendant went to trial when Classen was the law, and the trial court concluded that the identification was admissible under that standard. Lawson/James was decided before defendant’s appeal, and defendant argued that because that case significantly altered the standard for admissibility, defendant was entitled to a remand to decide whether the identification was admissible under the new framework. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and concluded that the identification would be admissible under Lawson/James and no remand was required.

The supreme court disagrees, in part. The court agrees that the state met its burden under Lawson/James to establish a minimum baseline of reliability, however, there may be a basis under OEC 403 to exclude the identification. The court noted that there were several estimator and system variables present, such as the conditions when the victim was assaulted and the detective’s suggestive interview. Because the application of Lawson/James could have resulted in the exclusion of the evidence, the error was not harmless and defendant was entitled to a remand.

State v. Haugen, 361 Or 284 (2017) (Baldwin, J.)