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Husband and Daughter Identify Mom as Bank Robber

The court held that the testimony of the defendant’s soon-to-be ex-husband (D) and her daughter (V) identifying the defendant on the bank surveillance photos was admissible under MRE 701. It rejected her claim that the testimony should have been excluded under MRE 403, and her ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Further, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying her request for substitute counsel, and, pursuant to Corbin, the trial court did not impermissibly order her to pay restitution based on factual findings that were not submitted to the jury. Thus, the court affirmed her bank robbery conviction and the order requiring her to pay $2,200 in restitution.

It concluded that the challenged testimony was “admissible under MRE 701 because it was (1) rationally based on their own perceptions and (2) helpful to the jury’s determination of a fact at issue in the case.” Both D and V saw the photos “and they were personally familiar with defendant’s appearance, meaning that their opinions” as to her identity as the robber depicted in the photos “was rationally based on their own perceptions.” Further, their testimony “was helpful to the jury’s determination of a fact in issue, namely defendant’s identity as the bank robber.” The photos “were of a ‘grainy’ quality and the robber wore a mask, hat, and sunglasses. Given these circumstances,” D’s and V’s “substantial familiarity with defendant enabled them to provide the jury with helpful insight into the question of whether” it was her in the photos. The testimony “did not invade the province of the jury.” Under the circumstances, it was clear that both V and D “were in a better position than the jury to identify defendant” as the person depicted in the photos. Further, “their testimony was highly probative” to the question of her identity as the robber. While “certainly damaging” to her case, the court saw “nothing unfairly prejudicial in the admission of this lay opinion testimony. It did not interject considerations extraneous to the lawsuit and, given that the jurors” were free to examine the photos themselves and to reject the testimony, there was no indication that it “would be given undue weight by the jury

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