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Corroboration of Victim “Accomplice” Testimony

January 08, 2013

Corroboration of Victim “Accomplice” Testimony

Case:  State of Tennessee v. Dewayne Collier

Facts:  Defendant was convicted of statutory rape against a “consenting” victim.  On appeal, Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence because under old—but surviving—Tennessee Supreme Court case law, such a victim is considered an accomplice whose testimony must be corroborated by other evidence.  The Court of Criminal Appeals was critical of this rule but continued to recognize it as binding precedent.  The Defendant’s conviction was nonetheless affirmed because the court found sufficient corroboration existed.

Issue:  Should the Supreme Court modify the rule classifying the victim of statutory rape as an accomplice and requiring corroboration of the victim’s testimony?

Review Granted:  January 8, 2013

Prediction:  David thinks the Supreme Court will modify the rule to some degree at least with respect to statutory rape.  The policy concern of the rule is to promote reliability by ensuring not only that the jury believes that a crime has occurred, but also that the defendant (rather than the accomplice or some other person) has committed the crime.  In the limited context, it could be argued that where the victim happens to also be an accomplice by operation of law, the victim’s testimony is no less reliable than a victim in any other setting and needs no additional corroboration.
The problem comes about in removing all restrictions, in that some jurisdictions do not require corroboration but the jury is instructed that accomplice testimony must be received with caution: “You should scrutinize that testimony carefully to determine whether it has in your opinion been affected by the accomplice’s interest in the matter, or by any other factor which may have caused the accomplice to testify falsely or inaccurately against the defendant in order to further her own interests. Accomplice testimony should be received with great caution and care.”