People v. Bridges, Court of Appeals No. 11CA2033

Docket NºCourt of Appeals No. 11CA2033
Citation410 P.3d 512
Case DateMay 22, 2014
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado

410 P.3d 512

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff–Appellee,
v.
Patrick Sean BRIDGES, Defendant–Appellant.

Court of Appeals No. 11CA2033

Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. II.

Announced May 22, 2014


John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Erin K. Grundy, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff–Appellee

Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Alan Kratz, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant–Appellant

Opinion by JUDGE ASHBY

410 P.3d 513

¶ 1 Defendant, Patrick Sean Bridges, appeals the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of sexual assault on a child, among other charges. We reverse the judgment and remand for a new trial.

I. Background

¶ 2 S.B., Bridges' daughter, alleged that he had sexually abused her. The People charged Bridges with three counts of sexual assault on a child—pattern of abuse, three counts of aggravated incest, and one count of enticement of a child.

¶ 3 At trial, there was no physical evidence that Bridges had sexually abused S.B., and the only direct evidence of the abuse was S.B.'s trial testimony and the video of her forensic interview in which she described the abuse. S.B. both testified at trial and stated in her interview that A.Q., her stepsister, had witnessed the abuse and had herself been abused by Bridges.

¶ 4 In her own forensic interview that was admitted at trial, A.Q. stated that S.B. told her several times about being abused by Bridges. However, at trial, A.Q. testified that she had not witnessed any abuse of S.B., S.B. never told her about being abused by Bridges, and she had not been abused by Bridges herself.

¶ 5 The forensic interviewer who conducted both interviews also testified at trial after being qualified and accepted as an expert in "forensic interviewing including the part and parcel of the forensic interviewing looking for coaching, deception, those types of things." In response to questions from the jury, he testified, over Bridges' objection, that he concluded that S.B. and A.Q. had not been coached before their respective interviews.

¶ 6 The jury found Bridges guilty of one count of sexual assault on a child (no pattern), one count of aggravated incest, and one count of enticement of a child. The trial court convicted and sentenced him accordingly.

¶ 7 Bridges appeals, first arguing that the court erred by allowing the forensic interviewer to testify that S.B. and A.Q. had not been coached in their respective forensic interviews. Because we agree that admitting this testimony was reversible error, we do not address any additional arguments on appeal.

II. Standard of Review

¶ 8 We review a court's evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion. See Davis v. People, 2013 CO 57, ¶ 13, 310 P.3d 58. If we determine that the court abused its discretion, we must then decide whether the aggrieved party is entitled to relief. The proper standard of review for this decision turns on whether the court's error implicated that party's constitutional rights, and whether the error was preserved.

¶ 9 Here, Bridges preserved the error by a contemporaneous objection. But, the alleged error was not constitutional in nature. See id. (treating preserved alleged violations of CRE 608(a) as nonconstitutional).

¶ 10 Preserved, nonconstitutional error requires reversal unless the error was harmless. See id. at ¶ 13 ; People v. Gaffney, 769 P.2d 1081, 1088 (Colo.1989) ; People v. Pena–Rodriguez, 2012 COA 193, ¶ 64, 2012 WL 5457362 ; see also Crim. P. 52(a). Harmless error is any error that does not substantially influence the verdict or affect the fairness of the proceedings. See Tevlin v. People, 715 P.2d 338, 342 (Colo.1986). Applying this standard, we must vacate Bridges' convictions unless we can say, based on the entire record, that the error did not substantially influence the verdict or impair the fairness of the trial. See Davis, ¶ 13. We are unable to do so.

III. Improper Vouching for Witness Credibility

¶ 11 "In Colorado, neither lay nor expert witnesses may give opinion testimony that

410 P.3d 514

another witness was telling the truth on a specific occasion." People v. Wittrein, 221 P.3d 1076, 1081 (Colo.2009) (citing CRE 608(a) ). However, when a witness's character for truthfulness has been attacked, the court may admit testimony about that witness's general character for truthfulness. See CRE 608(a) ; Gaffney, 769 P.2d at 1085–86. The jury...

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7 practice notes
  • People v. Short, Court of Appeals No. 15CA1175
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 5 Abril 2018
    ...responsibility to determine whether a particular witness's testimony or statement is truthful." People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512. "This rule applies to both direct and indirect implications of a [witness's] truthfulness." Venalonzo v. People , 2017 CO 9, ¶ 32, 388 P.3d 86......
  • People v. Baker, Court of Appeals No. 16CA1545
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 7 Noviembre 2019
    ...the evidence and determinations of credibility — matters that are for the jury alone to decide. See People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512 ("[I]t is solely the jury's responsibility to determine whether a particular witness's testimony or statement is truthful."); People v. Dun......
  • People ex rel. D.F.A.E., Court of Appeals No. 17CA0042
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 11 Junio 2020
    ...told the truth on a specific occasion. Venalonzo v. People , 2017 CO 9, ¶ 32, 388 P.3d 868 ; People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512. This rule applies with equal force to direct and indirect implications of a child's truthfulness. Venalonzo , ¶ 32. ¶ 65 Thus, a witness may not ......
  • People v. Vidauri, Court of Appeals No. 18CA0032
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 5 Septiembre 2019
    ...expert cannot express an "ultimate" conclusion about truthfulness of another witness's testimony. People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 15, 410 P.3d 512. ¶ 63 An expert witness may present lay testimony if the lay portion satisfies the requirement of CRE 701. See Salcedo v. People , 999 P.2d 8......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • People v. Short, Court of Appeals No. 15CA1175
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 5 Abril 2018
    ...responsibility to determine whether a particular witness's testimony or statement is truthful." People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512. "This rule applies to both direct and indirect implications of a [witness's] truthfulness." Venalonzo v. People , 2017 CO 9, ¶ 32, 388 P.3d 86......
  • People v. Baker, Court of Appeals No. 16CA1545
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 7 Noviembre 2019
    ...the evidence and determinations of credibility — matters that are for the jury alone to decide. See People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512 ("[I]t is solely the jury's responsibility to determine whether a particular witness's testimony or statement is truthful."); People v. Dun......
  • People ex rel. D.F.A.E., Court of Appeals No. 17CA0042
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 11 Junio 2020
    ...told the truth on a specific occasion. Venalonzo v. People , 2017 CO 9, ¶ 32, 388 P.3d 868 ; People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 11, 410 P.3d 512. This rule applies with equal force to direct and indirect implications of a child's truthfulness. Venalonzo , ¶ 32. ¶ 65 Thus, a witness may not ......
  • People v. Vidauri, Court of Appeals No. 18CA0032
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • 5 Septiembre 2019
    ...expert cannot express an "ultimate" conclusion about truthfulness of another witness's testimony. People v. Bridges , 2014 COA 65, ¶ 15, 410 P.3d 512. ¶ 63 An expert witness may present lay testimony if the lay portion satisfies the requirement of CRE 701. See Salcedo v. People , 999 P.2d 8......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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