Out-of-Court Statements Ruled Harmless in Pernell v. People

Colorado Supreme Court declines to address unique issue on opening statements and hearsay evidence

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A wholly effective system with no transparency and no public confidence will not suffice,” said a recent report on judicial discipline from IAALS.

What might have been a precedent-setting decision in Colorado criminal case law instead became a ruling on harmless error, as the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a conviction in Pernell v. People.

Originally the Supreme Court sought to address in Pernell whether a defendant’s opening statement could “open the door” to otherwise inadmissible hearsay evidence.

In the case’s trial, the defendant opened by arguing that the alleged victim made up the incident in question.

The Colorado Court of Appeals held that certain out-of-court statements that emerged in testimony then became admissible because they rehabilitated the alleged victim’s credibility in light of the opening statement.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the February 19, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.