CAN THE CREDIBILITY OF A WITNESS BE REVIEWED ON APPEAL?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Wade, 95 P.3d 1042 (Kan. Ct. App. 2004).
This case answers the following question:
Whether the credibility of witnesses can be reviewed by an appellate court?
The issue in this case is whether the Court of Appeals of Kansas had the authority to reweigh the credibility of the witnesses in an appeal for a conviction of criminal trespass. Criminal trespass is entering or remaining in any structure by a person who knows such person is not authorized or privileged to do so, and such premises or property are locked or fenced or otherwise enclosed.
In this case, Wade was convicted of criminal trespass based on testimony from his nephew, Haines, that he entered Haines’ rented home without consent. Wade had no ownership interest in the home, and the house had been locked up during the event in question. At trial, there was conflicting testimony presented by Haines and Wade. The district court weighed the conflicting testimony and held that the State had met its burden to prove the charge of criminal trespass beyond a reasonable doubt. On appeal, Wade appealed his criminal trespass conviction based on insufficient evidence.
Criminal trespass is entering or remaining in any structure by a person who knows such person is not authorized or privileged to do so, and such premises or property are locked or fenced or otherwise enclosed. At trial, Haines had testified that he was the lawful tenant of the dwelling, and that Wade entered the dwelling without Haines’ permission. Haines also testified that the home was locked up. Haines’ wife also testified at trial, and she asserted that Wade had no ownership interest in the dwelling. Wade appealed on the basis of insufficient evidence, but he was merely asking the court to weigh the credibility of the witnesses. On appeal, Wade argued that the testimony given by Haines at the trial was not credible. However, weighing the credibility of the witnesses is a matter for the trial court, not the appellate court. On appellate review, conflicting evidence will not be weighed, and all questions of credibility are resolved in favor of the State. The court found that the trial judge was convinced by Haines’ testimony after hearing both sides of the conflicting testimony presented at trial. The Court of Appeals found no reason to question the trial court judge’s weighing of the witnesses’ credibility.
The Court of Appeals of Kansas affirmed the ruling of the lower court and the conviction of criminal trespass. The Court of Appeals held that there was not an issue of insufficient evidence, and that Wade was merely asking the Court of Appeals to weigh the credibility of the witnesses again. Since weighing the credibility of witnesses is a matter for the trial court and not the appellate court, the court found it would be improper to address that issue. Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the conviction of criminal trespass.