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Appellate Procedure – Harmless Error: General Test

State v. Ronell E. Harris, 2008 WI 15, affirming unpublished decision
For Harris: Ralph J. Sczygelskis

Issue/Holding: Various discovery and evidentiary violations amounted to harmless error, whether taken singly (¶¶41-59, ¶87-90) or cumulatively (¶¶109-113).Harmless error discussions are largely fact-specific, and this case is no exception. But it is noteworthy for its recognition that the “court has formulated the test for harmless or prejudicial error in a variety of way,” ¶42.

The court doesn’t attempt to reconcile the different wordings which include, briefly, the following tests: whether the State has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the error didn’t contribute to the conviction, or whether it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that a rational fact-finder would have found guilt absent the error, see ¶¶42-43. Presumably, you’re free to argue whichever standard you prefer. The State, as a constant, bears the burden of proof as to harmlessness, see ¶113.

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