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Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Assault Conviction

In State of Vermont v. Shawn Kelley, 2016 VT 58 (May 20, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed Kelley’s domestic assault conviction.

Issue: Kelley appealed his domestic assault conviction, arguing that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence and denied his motion for judgment of acquittal, as well as that the prosecutor made prejudicial remarks in her closing argument.

Holding: The Supreme Court upheld Kelley’s domestic assault conviction, finding that the trial court properly admitted a 911 recording of complainant telling the dispatcher that Kelley beat her as impeachment evidence. After calling 911 and speaking to the responding officers, complainant changed her account of what occurred on New Year’s Eve 2013, testifying that she tripped and fell. The state was, then, allowed to use the 911 recording as a prior inconsistent statement. The Court also found that the trial court did not err in admitting an officer’s testimony regarding a conversation he had with the complainant, as it was also used for impeachment purposes. While the trial court did not completely comply with the requirements for admitting impeachment evidence, Kelley did not preserve his arguments relating to the requirements. The Court also found that the trial court properly denied Kelley’s motion for judgment of acquittal, since there was enough evidence to show that Kelley hit the complainant, causing her injury. Finally, the Court held that the prosecutor’s closing argument was limited to the evidence presented, as the 911 recording and the officer’s testimony were both properly admitted during the trial.

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