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State v. Stricklan, 2020 UT 65 (Oct. 15, 2020)

Oct 15, 2020

In this criminal appeal, the Utah Supreme Court addressed a line of Utah cases, including State v. Webb, 779 P.2d 1108 (Utah 1989) and State v. Ramsey, 782 P.2d 480, 484 (Utah 1989), which suggests that a conviction based solely on an uncorroborated out-of-court statement cannot be sustained on appeal. The defendant was convicted of sexual abuse of a child despite the victim recanting her previous accusation on the stand. A majority of the court concluded that the rule articulated in Webb and Ramsey was inapplicable, since there was other evidence available for the jury to adequately evaluate both the victim’s original accusation and her subsequent recantation. Regardless, the majority noted it would likely “scrub” the Webb/Ramsey rule from Utah jurisprudence if asked, since the true focus of any criminal appeal alleging insufficient evidence must be the evidence presented to the jury, not the applicability of a bright-line rule. A lengthy dissent by Chief Justice Durrant, joined by Justice Himonas, argued Webb and Ramsey applied and the conviction simply could not be sustained on the evidence presented.