Worthy v. State, No. S-8299.

CourtSupreme Court of Alaska (US)
Writing for the CourtEASTAUGH, Justice.
Citation999 P.2d 771
Decision Date14 April 2000
Docket NumberNo. S-8299.
PartiesConrad J. WORTHY, Petitioner, v. STATE of Alaska, Respondent.

999 P.2d 771

Conrad J. WORTHY, Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Respondent

No. S-8299.

Supreme Court of Alaska.

April 14, 2000.


999 P.2d 772
Christine S. Schleuss, Suddock & Schleuss, Anchorage, for Petitioner

John A. Scukanec, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General, Juneau, for Respondent.

Before MATTHEWS, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH and FABE, Justices.

OPINION

EASTAUGH, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

We reverse Conrad Worthy's conviction for second-degree sexual assault and remand for retrial. Worthy should have been permitted to introduce extrinsic evidence challenging the truth of the complaining witness's allegation that another man had raped her on a prior occasion, because her prior allegation was a crucial part of the state's case against Worthy.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In July 1994 T.J.S. broke off her two-year romantic relationship with Worthy. But they remained in contact, and several weeks later T.J.S. agreed to dine with Worthy and another couple. On their way home from

999 P.2d 773
dinner, Worthy told T.J.S. that he wanted to stop at his office because he had been having computer problems. Inside the office, Worthy and T.J.S. began to argue. The argument became violent. The details are contested, but Worthy admitted that he physically assaulted T.J.S. T.J.S. claimed that Worthy also sexually assaulted her by digitally penetrating her

Worthy eventually let T.J.S. go. She ran to a nearby store and called the police. The police took her to a hospital, where a medical examination revealed bruising and abrasion consistent with her allegations of physical assault and digital penetration.

The state indicted Worthy for first-degree sexual assault, among other charges. At trial, the jury acquitted Worthy of first-degree sexual assault, but found him guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree sexual assault.

Worthy challenges two evidentiary rulings made by the superior court. First, it excluded testimony tending to show that T.J.S. had previously falsely alleged that another man had sexually assaulted her on an earlier occasion. T.J.S. claimed that a co-worker named Chris had sexually assaulted her in Barrow in April 1994 following a work-related party. T.J.S. reported the alleged sexual assault to the Barrow police. The district attorney never filed charges against Chris. At the time of the alleged Barrow sexual assault, T.J.S. and Worthy were dating and she discussed the incident with Worthy. Then, during the encounter between Worthy and T.J.S., Worthy mentioned Chris. T.J.S. testified that Worthy punctuated his sexual assault on her by telling her to "think of [him] as Chris."1

Before trial Worthy sought permission to call Chris to testify that T.J.S. had falsely accused him of rape and that T.J.S. had consented to have sex with him. The superior court refused to permit the testimony.

In its opening statement at trial, the state referred to the alleged Barrow rape and Worthy's comments regarding Chris during the assault. T.J.S. also testified on direct examination about the alleged Barrow rape and the trauma she claimed to have suffered as a result. The superior court limited cross-examination; the defense could discuss whether the sex was, in fact, consensual, and could only point out that no criminal charge resulted from the investigation.

Worthy argued before the court of appeals that the superior court's ruling improperly restricted his right to litigate the Barrow rape. Worthy maintained that once the prosecutor asserted that a prior rape had really occurred, Worthy was entitled to introduce evidence to prove that no rape had occurred.

The court of appeals rejected Worthy's argument, determining that it was essentially irrelevant whether a rape had actually occurred in Barrow. It noted that the Barrow episode was only relevant to give context to what Worthy told T.J.S. during the Anchorage incident.

Second, the superior court excluded expert testimony by Dr. Susan LaGrande, a psychologist, about the effects of childhood sexual assault upon an individual's response to and perception of violent or upsetting non-sexual incidents. Worthy offered this expert testimony on the eighth day of trial. The superior court refused to allow this testimony because Worthy had not given timely notice of his intention to call this expert, and because Worthy failed to offer any foundational evidence to suggest that the expert's theories applied to T.J.S.

The court of appeals did not consider the timeliness of Worthy's notice because it agreed that Worthy failed to establish the relevance of the expert's testimony.

Worthy petitions for hearing from the decision of the court of appeals.

III. DISCUSSION

A. It Was Reversible Error to Reject Evidence that T.J.S. Had Previously Made a False Allegation of Sexual Assault Against Another Man.

The admissibility of evidence is largely within the trial court's discretion and its

999 P.2d 774
rulings will not be overturned on appeal absent an abuse of its discretion.2

Worthy argues that the superior court erred in refusing to permit extrinsic evidence that T.J.S. had falsely accused Chris of sexual assault in Barrow. The state contends that the truth or falsity of the Barrow rape is irrelevant here; the only relevant evidence was that T.J.S. discussed the incident with Worthy and that Worthy told T.J.S. during the assault to "think of [him] as Chris."

As a general rule, contradictory evidence may not be admitted if it relates to a collateral matter. If a matter is considered collateral, the testimony of the witness on direct or cross-examination stands—the examiner must take the witness's answer.3 If the matter is not collateral, extrinsic evidence may be introduced disputing the witness's testimony on direct or cross-examination.

There is no clear, bright-line demarcation between collateral and non-collateral matters. In Davenport v. State,4 we adopted relevancy as the dividing line; we stated that "facts which are relevant to the issues of the case [are not collateral]."5 McCormick on Evidence6 elaborated on this distinction: "the matter is non-collateral and extrinsic evidence consequently admissible if the matter is itself relevant to a fact of consequence on the historical merits of the case."7

Is the truth or falsity of the Barrow rape relevant to this matter? As a general rule, the prior sexual conduct of an alleged sexual assault victim is not admissible.8 And the court of appeals has discussed an independent rule providing that an alleged victim's prior false allegations of sexual assault are not admissible to discredit the victim's current allegations unless the proponent of the evidence meets a threshold burden of establishing the falsity of the past reports.9 But we need not decide which of these two rules applies to Chris's testimony. Because the state interjected the alleged Barrow rape into the case and made its occurrence a central part of the case against Worthy, the issue became independently relevant.

The state went much further than merely confining its evidence concerning the Barrow event to what T.J.S. had told Worthy about the incident and what Worthy had said to T.J.S. during the assault in his office.10 The state took it as a given that the Barrow incident had actually been a sexual assault. Worthy contends that the prosecutor relied on that assumption

to generate sympathy for T.J.S. as a victim of two rapes, to establish her as a truthful reporter of rapes, to show her mental condition as a rape victim, and to portray Mr. Worthy as a man so bad that he raped someone he knew was particularly vulnerable because she had just been raped by someone else.

We agree with Worthy's characterization of the prosecutor's approach.

The state's trial references to the Barrow event had the effect of elevating that incident to a level of importance it would not normally have had.

We are guided here by our opinion in Davenport. Davenport was prosecuted for

999 P.2d 775
receiving and concealing stolen property.11 We approved of the prosecution's request to introduce, for the purpose of impeaching Davenport's testimony that he had never seen a certain gold cuff link before it was pawned, testimony linking the cuff link with defendant's prior burglary conviction.12 We reached this conclusion because the proposed testimony "went to the essence of the critical transaction," not to a mere collateral matter.13

McCormick on Evidence recognizes this category of non-collateral matters: "[A] part of the witness's story may be attacked where as a matter of human experience, he could not be mistaken about that fact if the thrust of his testimony on the historical merits was true."14

Chris's proposed testimony is similar to the testimony allowed in Davenport and fits within the exception recognized by McCormick on Evidence. The prosecution chose to use the Barrow event to bolster T.J.S.'s credibility, generate sympathy for her, and tarnish Worthy's image before the jury. The prosecution made the truth of the Barrow rape a critical part of Worthy's assault on T.J.S. For this reason, Worthy was entitled to litigate the truth or falsity of T.J.S.'s Barrow rape report. It was an abuse of discretion to exclude Chris's testimony.

We will not reverse a conviction based on an evidentiary ruling if the error is harmless.15 Because the state made T.J.S.'s testimony regarding the alleged Barrow event an integral part of its case against Worthy, Chris's testimony might have substantially affected the jury's verdict. Exclusion of this evidence therefore requires reversal of Worthy's conviction and remand for retrial.

Correctly noting that Worthy failed at trial to renew his pretrial request to call Chris, the dissenting opinion reasons that Worthy waived this argument.16 We decline to hold that Worthy did not preserve the issue.

Our reluctance is partly procedural. The...

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16 practice notes
  • Morgan v. State, No. A-7700.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Alaska
    • September 27, 2002
    ...his verdict. -------- Notes: 1. Covington, 703 P.2d at 442. 2. See id., 703 P.2d at 441-42. 3. Id. at 442. 4. Id. 5. See Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 774 (Alaska 2000): "As a general rule, contradictory evidence may not be admitted if it relates to a collateral matter. If a matter is cons......
  • Liimatta v. Vest, No. S-9289
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • April 12, 2002
    ...by protective order may "open the door to evidence on a subject by putting that subject at issue in the case"); Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 775 (Alaska 53. See Alaska R. Evid. 103(a)(2). 54. While our case law does indicate that Rule 103(a)(2) should be relaxed when an unambiguous pretri......
  • Hess v. State, No. S-8876.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • April 13, 2001
    ...a verdict ... unless refusal to take such action appears to the court inconsistent with substantial justice."); see also Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 775 (Alaska 2000) (holding refusal to allow testimony on alleged falsity of victim's prior accusation of rape reversible error when state r......
  • Grandstaff v. State, No. A-8128.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Alaska
    • November 30, 2007
    ...or absence of mistake or accident." 104. Stevens, 748 P.2d at 775. 105. See Raphael v. State, 994 P.2d 1004, 1015 (Alaska 2000). 106. 999 P.2d 771 (Alaska 107. Id. at 774. 108. Id. at 773. 109. Id. at 775. 110. Bingaman, 76 P.3d at 414-15. 111. Id. at 401-02. 112. See A.R.E. 803(6). 113. Se......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Morgan v. State, No. A-7700.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Alaska
    • September 27, 2002
    ...his verdict. -------- Notes: 1. Covington, 703 P.2d at 442. 2. See id., 703 P.2d at 441-42. 3. Id. at 442. 4. Id. 5. See Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 774 (Alaska 2000): "As a general rule, contradictory evidence may not be admitted if it relates to a collateral matter. If a matter is cons......
  • Liimatta v. Vest, No. S-9289
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • April 12, 2002
    ...by protective order may "open the door to evidence on a subject by putting that subject at issue in the case"); Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 775 (Alaska 53. See Alaska R. Evid. 103(a)(2). 54. While our case law does indicate that Rule 103(a)(2) should be relaxed when an unambiguous pretri......
  • Hess v. State, No. S-8876.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • April 13, 2001
    ...a verdict ... unless refusal to take such action appears to the court inconsistent with substantial justice."); see also Worthy v. State, 999 P.2d 771, 775 (Alaska 2000) (holding refusal to allow testimony on alleged falsity of victim's prior accusation of rape reversible error when state r......
  • Grandstaff v. State, No. A-8128.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Alaska
    • November 30, 2007
    ...or absence of mistake or accident." 104. Stevens, 748 P.2d at 775. 105. See Raphael v. State, 994 P.2d 1004, 1015 (Alaska 2000). 106. 999 P.2d 771 (Alaska 107. Id. at 774. 108. Id. at 773. 109. Id. at 775. 110. Bingaman, 76 P.3d at 414-15. 111. Id. at 401-02. 112. See A.R.E. 803(6). 113. Se......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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