Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You can't judge a book by its cover

Rex Lane won in In re J.C.J. No. 96,542 (Kan. App. Feb. 2, 2007)(unpublished), reversing an Atchison County juvenile adjudication for voluntary unlawful sexual relations on sufficiency grounds. J.C.J. claimed that at no point during the adjudication proceedings did the state provide any evidence of her age or the age of her partner, which are essential elements of the offense. The state argued that the district judge saw the two in person. But the COA held that oroof of an essential element requires evidence:
While it is true that some elements of an offense may be proved by circumstantial evidence and the logical inferences therefrom, the mere physical appearances of J.C.J. and J.C. do not present sufficient evidence to prove the ages of J.C.J. and J.C. beyond a reasonable doubt.

This could be important in many different contexts. It is also important for trial practitioners to remember that physical gestures or other facts that may be obvious to everyone in a courtroom are not obvious in a transcript. For example, if the cop physically dwarfs your client, make sure the written record reflects that fact, which may be very important in coercion/consent cases.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued March 8, 2007]

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