Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Roberts

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 4, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
STEVEN LAMAR ROBERTS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted March 29, 2016

         Multnomah County Circuit Court 130733183; Alicia A. Fuchs, Judge.

          Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Erica Herb, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Paul L. Smith, Deputy Solicitor General, and David B. Thompson, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Tookey, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for rape, sodomy, and incest. He assigns error to the trial court's admission, over his OEC 403 objection, of evidence of two prior uncharged acts of sexual violence against the victim, which the court apparently considered relevant to whether the victim had consented to sexual activity. He argues that the court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence, because the probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

         Held:

         The record is insufficient for the Court of Appeals to discern the specific purpose for which the trial court admitted the challenged evidence, and, therefore, to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. Accordingly, the case must be remanded to the trial court for it to explain how it considers the evidence to be probative.

         Vacated and remanded.

         [288 Or. 146] DEHOOG, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for one count each of first-degree rape, ORS 163.375, first-degree sodomy, ORS 163.405, and incest, ORS 163.525. We write only to address defendant's first and second assignments of error, in which defendant asserts that the trial court erred in admitting, over his OEC 403 objection, evidence of two prior uncharged acts of sexual violence against the victim. Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting that evidence, because its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice that the evidence presented. As we explain below, we are unable to discern the basis on which the trial court admitted the challenged evidence and, therefore, cannot evaluate whether it was error to admit that evidence over defendant's OEC 403 objection. Accordingly, we vacate defendant's convictions and remand for the trial court to provide an explanation.[1]

         The state prosecuted defendant for raping, sodomizing, sexually abusing, and engaging in incest with his disabled, adult daughter. Each of the rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse charges alleged that defendant had subjected the victim to "forcible compulsion, " an element common to those offenses as charged. See ORS 163.375(1)(a) (first-degree rape);[2] ORS 163.405(1)(a) (first-degree sodomy);[3] ORS 163.427(1)(a)(B) (first-degree sexual abuse).[4] The state's case relied upon a description of events that the victim had given others shortly after calling 9-1-1 to report the alleged incident. As relevant to the issues on appeal, the victim [288 Or. 147] told a sexual assault examiner and an investigating officer that defendant had grabbed her, pushed her onto his bed, pulled down her pants, and put his penis into her vagina. She described defendant as having put his weight on her belly, held back her arm, and choked her; she said that she had tried to fight defendant off, but that she had not been strong enough. Consistent with that description, the victim subsequently testified before a grand jury that defendant had forced her to have sexual intercourse with him against her will. The victim further told the grand jury that, during the incident, she had cried and asked defendant to stop, but that he had continued to force himself on her.

         By trial, however, the victim's description of events had changed. The victim testified at trial that she and defendant had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse while she was under the influence of alcohol and various medications. Having anticipated that the victim might change her testimony, [5] the state moved in limine for a ruling allowing the state to introduce evidence that, in its view, would refute the victim's characterization of defendant's conduct as consensual, rather than forcible. Specifically, the state sought to introduce evidence that, on two earlier occasions, defendant had subjected the victim to sexual violence. On the first occasion, which occurred approximately 13 years before the charged events, defendant "rammed" a 40-ounce bottle inside the victim's vagina so forcefully that she began to hemorrhage; on the second occasion, at around the same time, defendant burned the victim with a cigarette "on top of" her vagina. Among other things, the state argued, that evidence was relevant and admissible under OEC 404(3) to prove that the victim had not consented to defendant's conduct during the charged incident.[6]

         [288 Or. 148] Notably, the state did not clearly or consistently explain how that evidence of defendant's earlier conduct tended to show that he had, in the charged incident, used or threatened force against the victim, or, as both parties characterize that element, that the sexual conduct had not been consensual.[7] That is, even though the ultimate focus of the state's argument appears to have been on the issue of consent, the state's reasoning as to how the prior abuse was probative of that issue was, at best, vague. Broadly speaking, however, the state's position at trial was that, because of the victim's relationship and sexual history with defendant, her belief that the charged events had been "consensual" was neither credible nor probative.

         At a pretrial hearing on the state's motion, the victim testified regarding her relationship with defendant and the specific prior bad acts. During that offer of proof, the victim explained that her father had "been in and out of [her] life" for her entire life of 37 years. She acknowledged that she suffered memory problems due to a stroke, that she had struggled with alcohol and opioid addiction for much of her life, and that she often confused the past and the present. The victim further testified that defendant had physically assaulted her in the past, and said that she had reported those assaults. She also testified that, over the preceding 15 years, she and defendant had engaged in sexual intercourse an unknown number of times-but "less than 20"-most often while both defendant and she had been intoxicated. According to the victim, defendant considered her to be "his girlfriend" and did not believe that she was his biological daughter; he therefore considered it "okay to have sexual things going on."

         [288 Or. 149] That sexual contact had, however, occasionally been physically violent. Two of the violent occasions were those that the state sought to present at trial. The victim described the incident involving a 40-ounce bottle as follows:

"[VICTIM]: *** [T]here was a sexual [assault] with *** a 40 bottle.
" [PROSECUTOR]: And what * * * did you report to the police that he did with ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.