State of Utah v. Rice

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State v. Rice. Filed December 30, 1999 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Troy Don Rice,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 990082-CA

December 30, 1999
  1999 UT App 387 -----

Third District, Salt Lake Department
The Honorable Sandra Peuler

Catherine E. Lilly, Salt Lake City, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Laura B. Dupaix, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Wilkins, Greenwood, and Jackson.

GREENWOOD, Associate Presiding Judge:

Defendant appeals from a conviction of separate counts of aggravated kidnaping, rape, and forcible sodomy. He claims the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's guilty verdict. We affirm.

In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, "'we review the evidence and all inferences which may reasonably be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the verdict of the jury.'" State v. Brown, 948 P.2d 337, 343 (Utah 1997) (citation omitted). Further, "'[w]e reverse a jury conviction for insufficient evidence only when the evidence, so viewed, is sufficiently inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds must have entertained a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of which he [or she] was convicted.'" Id. (citation omitted) (second alteration in original). Utah appellate courts have consistently held, "'credibility is an issue for the trier of fact, in this case the jury . . . . Moreover, as a general rule, in reviewing a jury verdict we assume that the jury believed the evidence supporting the verdict.'" Id. at 343-44 (citation omitted).

In this case, the jury was presented with two different versions of the facts, the victim's and defendant's. Defendant testified that the victim accompanied him voluntarily and had consensual sexual intercourse with him. Other testimony established that shortly after the alleged rape, the victim related her version of events to the woman who drove her to the hospital, to police officers, and to the nurse who examined her. The victim detailed the criminal acts consistently and clearly; however, her recollection of peripheral facts regarding a crucifix, the description of items in defendant's truck, and the time-line of events was less coherent. Defendant argues this evidence, which he characterizes as inconsistent, improbable, and contradictory, was insufficient to support a guilty verdict.

Minor inconsistencies and contradictions in a victim's testimony, similar to those at issue in this case, have not warranted reversal based on insufficient evidence. See State v. Baker, 963 P.2d 801, 809 (Utah Ct. App. 1998) (finding sufficient evidence to support defendant's rape conviction when victim's testimony on peripheral issues was inconsistent but victim's testimony regarding description of perpetrator, location of abuse, method used to bind her, and location of other family members during abuse was corroborated). In State v. Gentry, 747 P.2d 1032, 1039 (Utah 1987),(1) the Utah Supreme Court found sufficient evidence to sustain a jury verdict of guilt when the victim's testimony regarding the color of the defendant's truck, the layout of the truck's interior, defendant's hair color, jewelry worn by defendant, and the timing of the events was inconsistent with that of the defendant. The court upheld the defendant's conviction, stating that the victim's "reliability was 'not necessarily impugned because her initial description did not precisely match the defendant. Her description of the assailant was generally consistent with defendant's appearance and it was the jury's duty to resolve the reliability of this testimony.'" Id. (citation omitted).

Although the victim's testimony in this case contained minor inconsistencies, her testimony was consistent as to the actual criminal acts. Further, the victim's version of events was corroborated by physical evidence and by witnesses who saw her, distraught and shaking, shortly after the incident. Ultimately, the jury had to determine which version of the facts was more credible. This court "will not weigh conflicting evidence nor substitute our judgment on issues of witness credibility for that of the jury." State v. Wright, 893 P.2d 1113, 1117 (Utah Ct. App. 1995). Accordingly, we conclude that sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction and, therefore, affirm it.

Pamela T. Greenwood,
Associate Presiding Judge



Michael J. Wilkins,
Presiding Judge

Norman H. Jackson, Judge

1. Gentry was reversed and remanded for a new trial based on the trial court's failure to exclude the defendant's prior convictions. See 747 P.2d at 1037.