People v. Koon

Decision Date14 November 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84CA0583,84CA0583
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. William C. KOON, Defendant-Appellant. . I
CourtColorado Court of Appeals

Duane Woodard, Atty. Gen., Charles B. Howe, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Richard H. Forman, Sol. Gen., Clement P. Engle, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for plaintiff-appellee.

Douglas R. Manley, La Junta, for defendant-appellant.

PIERCE, Judge.

Defendant, William C. Koon, appeals his judgment of conviction for sexual assault on a child. We reverse.

Defendant's trial to the court stemmed from allegations made by a fourteen-year-old boy who had been placed under defendant's supervision at the Colorado Boys' Ranch. As was the custom at the ranch, boys were allowed to stay overnight at the homes of individual staff members. On one such occasion, the boy alleged that defendant sexually assaulted him. Six days after the alleged incident, the boy reported it. Much of the testimony at trial focused on the credibility of the boy, his psychological makeup, his untruthfulness in other instances, and on the credibility of the defendant.

I.

Defendant first argues that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the boy's sexual history. He argues that although the two express exceptions listed in § 18-3-407(1), C.R.S. (1978 Repl.Vol. 8), do not apply to his case, evidence of the boy's prior sexual conduct should have nevertheless been admitted under § 18-3-407(2), C.R.S. (1978 Repl.Vol. 8). We disagree.

Section 18-3-407, C.R.S. (1978 Repl.Vol. 8), establishes a presumption that evidence of the victim's prior or subsequent sexual conduct is irrelevant. Pursuant to § 18-3-407(2)(e), the court here determined that evidence of the boy's prior homosexual conduct does not bear on his credibility and was irrelevant. The trial court went on to state that it would admit defendant's testimony regarding any conversations he had with the boy about his prior homosexual experiences.

The trial court's determination that evidence is irrelevant is within its sound discretion, and will not be reversed absent a showing of an abuse thereof. People v. Lowe, 660 P.2d 1261 (Colo.1983). Under the circumstances of this case, defendant has not overcome the presumption established by § 18-3-407; thus, no abuse has been shown. See People v. Gallegos, 644 P.2d 920 (Colo.1982).

II.

Defendant next contends that the trial court erred in allowing a social worker, who was qualified as an expert, to give his opinion as to the truthfulness of the boy's allegations against defendant. We agree that the social worker's testimony over-stepped the bounds of admissible character evidence.

Although CRE 704 states that opinion testimony is "not objectionable because it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact," this rule does not admit all opinions. See Fed.R.Evid. 704 (Advisory Committee's Note). For example, under CRE 701 and 702, to be admissible, opinions must be helpful to the trier of fact, and CRE 403 calls for the exclusion of evidence which wastes time, misleads the jury, or is unfairly prejudicial.

In addition, if the opinion deals directly with the credibility of a witness, its admissibility must be assessed with regard to the limitations stated in CRE 608(a). Under CRE 608(a), once a witness' character for truthfulness has been attacked, as the boy's was here, opposing counsel may present evidence of truthful character. However, this general rule requires further inquiry as to whether "evidence of truthful character" may include opinion testimony as to specific instances of veracity.

Generally, opinion testimony as to credibility has been excluded unless the subject matter concerns organic or mental disorders or physical maladies and habits. See United States v. Wertis, 505 F.2d 683 (5th Cir.1974); United States v. Barnard, 490 F.2d 907 (9th Cir.1973). Thus, opinion testimony as to veracity of a witness is admitted in those situations in which there exists a question of insanity, mental derangements such as delusions, hallucinations, or sexual psychopathy, or other maladies such as drug addiction. See generally, Annot., 20 A.L.R.3d 684 (1968 & Supp.1985). No such disorders or maladies were here asserted.

In sexual assault situations, at least where the victim is a very young child, opinion testimony as to credibility of the child-victim is admitted if that testimony relates to general characteristics. For example, opinion testimony as to "whether children, generally, have the 'sophistication' to lie about having experienced a sexual assault" is admissible. People v. Ashley, 687 P.2d 473 (Colo.App.1984). Such expert opinion is admitted because it may help the jury to make a more informed decision in evaluating the credibility of a testifying child, and not be misled, for example, by the child's delay in reporting the incident. See State v. Middleton, 294 Or. 427, 657 P.2d 1215 (1983).

However, neither a lay nor expert witness may give opinion testimony with respect to whether a witness is telling the truth on a specific occasion. State v. Middleton, supra; State v. Haseltine, 120 Wis.2d 92, 352 N.W.2d 673 (1984). Expert testimony is to be excluded on the question of whether a witness...

To continue reading

Request your trial
38 cases
  • U.S. v. Charley, 98-2087
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • 7 Mayo 1999
    ...341 (8th Cir.1986); State v. Wood, 194 W.Va. 525, 460 S.E.2d 771, 778 (W.Va.1995) (construing W. Va. R. Evid. 608); People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410, 412 (Colo.Ct.App.1985) (construing Colo. R. Evid. 608). And at least one court has held, in a sexual abuse case, that testimony that bolsters the......
  • State v. Rimmasch
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • 17 Mayo 1989
    ...Tevlin v. People, 715 P.2d 338, 341 (Colo.1986) (relying on Colo.R.Evid. 608, which is identical to Utah R.Evid. 608); People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410, 412 (Colo.Ct.App.1985). Some members of this Court have previously recognized that an expert may not express a direct opinion on whether a wit......
  • Lanham v. Com.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court — District of Kentucky
    • 25 Agosto 2005
    ...340 Ark. 530, 10 S.W.3d 906, 910 (2000); People v. Coffman, 34 Cal.4th 1, 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 710, 96 P.3d 30, 93 (2004); People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410, 412 (Colo.Ct.App.1985); State v. Porter, 241 Conn. 57, 698 A.2d 739, 769 (1997) (excluding polygraph evidence); Tingle v. State, 536 So.2d 202, ......
  • United States v. Rodriguez, CR 12–3109–10 JB.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 24 Agosto 2015
    ...341 (8th Cir.1986) ; State v. Wood, 194 W.Va. 525, 460 S.E.2d 771, 778 (W.Va.1995) (construing W. Va. R. Evid. 608 ); People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410, 412 (Colo.Ct.App.1985) (construing Colo. R. Evid. 608 ). And at least one court has held, in a sexual abuse case, that testimony that bolsters ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 books & journal articles
  • ARTICLE 3
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association C.R.S. on Family and Juvenile Law (2022 ed.) (CBA) Title 18 Criminal Code
    • Invalid date
    ...1998); People v. Carlson, 72 P.3d 411 (Colo. App. 2003). Homosexual orientation is within the purview of this section. People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410 (Colo. App. 1985); People v. Murphy, 919 P.2d 191 (Colo. 1996). Prosecution may "open the door" to inadmissible evidence of a rape victim's sex......
  • ARTICLE 3 OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association C.R.S. on Family and Juvenile Law (CBA) Title 18 Criminal Code
    • Invalid date
    ...1998); People v. Carlson, 72 P.3d 411 (Colo. App. 2003). Homosexual orientation is within the purview of this section. People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410 (Colo. App. 1985); People v. Murphy, 919 P.2d 191 (Colo. 1996). Prosecution may "open the door" to inadmissible evidence of a rape victim's sex......
  • Rule 608 EVIDENCE OF CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF WITNESS
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Rules and C.R.S. of Evidence Annotated (CBA)
    • Invalid date
    ...occasion of truthfulness and which did not express an opinion as to character may not be admitted under this rule. People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410 (Colo. App. 1985); People v. Ross, 745 P.2d 277 (Colo. App. 1987). Such testimony constitutes reversible error and requires a new trial. People v. ......
  • Using Experts to Aid Jurors in Assessing Child Witness Credibility
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 35-8, August 2006
    • Invalid date
    ...647 (Colo. 1987) (allowing expert opinion as to victim's truthfulness about the version of the offense was plain error); People v. Koon, 713 P.2d 410 (Colo.App. 1985) (neither a lay nor expert witness may give opinion testimony with respect to whether a witness is telling the truth on a spe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT