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Conviction for Lewd and Lascivious Behavior With a Child Overturned on Appeal Due to Evidentiary Errors

In State v. Madigan, 2015 VT 59 (April 17, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court reversed a conviction for three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child, on the grounds that defendant was prejudiced by multiple evidentiary errors during the trial.

Issue: Defendant challenged several evidentiary issues and the arguments made by the prosecutor during closing argument.

Holding: The court erroneously allowed evidence regarding a witness’s character for truthfulness. Such evidence is only permitted under limited circumstances, and those circumstances were not met here. Further, the court erroneously allowed hearsay evidence that corroborated the victim’s testimony. No exception allowed the testimony, which consisted of a witness recounting statements made by the victim. Finally, the prosecutor committed error during the closing argument by interjecting facts of little or no relevance to the defendant’s guilt but which prejudicially played upon the jurors’ natural sympathy for the victim. These errors were prejudicial to the defendant, and therefore grounds to reverse and remand.

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