Cornwall v. State

In Cornwall v. State, 915 P.2d 640 (Alaska App. 1996) the question was whether the trial judge should have allowed the defendant to present testimony concerning the defendant's mistaken understanding of certain child custody orders. The Court explained that this testimony was admissible because it was relevant to the issue of the defendant's state of mind -- and because one of the elements of custodial interference is the defendant's state of mind. (Cornwall, 915 P.2d at 648-49.) But the Court noted that this same testimony would not have been admissible if it "had been offered for the purpose of convincing the jury that ... there was a substantial possibility that the child custody orders had no legal effect on Cornwall" -- because "the legal effect of the superior court's custody orders was an issue of law to be decided by the trial judge". (915 P.2d at 647.)