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Jury instructions — discretion of trial court

State v. Larry D. Wright, 2012AP1175-CR, District 1, 5/7/13; court of appeals decision (not recommended for publication); case activity

The trial court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in instructing the jury by giving Wis. J.I.-Criminal 172 (evidence of defendant’s conduct showing consciousness of guilt), as it was supported by evidence that Wright bribed the complaining witness to write two letters recanting her allegations. (She testified at trial the recantations were untrue). (¶¶13-16). “Under these circumstances, the jury could reasonably consider Wright’s actions as his consciousness of guilt.  The instruction properly stated the law and was supported by the victim’s testimony.  Giving the jury Wis JI—Criminal 172 was not erroneous.” (¶17).

Nor did the trial court err in denying Wright’s request for Wis. J.I.-Criminal 330, regarding a witness’s character for untruthfulness. While one state’s witness testified the complainant was “a known liar,” the trial court ruled that testimony lacked proper foundation; moreover, the issue of the complainant’s credibility was explicitly put before the jury through the general instruction on witness credibility and defense counsel’s closing argument, which emphasized the defense theory that the complainant was lying. (¶¶18-25).

Appellate practice note: This case involved charges of child sexual assault and child enticement. The court notes Wright’s briefs refer to the victim by her first and last name. (¶2 n.1). The court also notes that “Rule 809.19(1)(g)(2011-12) prohibits the use of a victim’s full name in cases with confidential records.” (Id.) This isn’t such a case. Nonetheless: “Although appellants are not statutorily prohibited from identifying juvenile victims of sensitive crimes by their first names and last initials, it is our own internal policy to protect the identity of juvenile assault victims by only identifying them by their initials where possible.  We urge appellants do the same.” (Id. (emphasis added)).

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