Whiteplume v. State

In Whiteplume v. State, 841 P.2d 1332 (Wyo. 1992), after reviewing all of the circumstances, the Court concluded that the prosecutor had not intended to elicit an opinion of defendant's guilt or the victim's credibility, but because the officer was the first to testify, had fifteen years of experience and a master's degree, we had concerns that the officer's opinion testimony was deliberate rather than inadvertent. Whiteplume, 841 P.2d at 1339. The Court concluded that the officer's experience and education meant that the jury hearing that testimony would reasonably draw the conclusion that he believed her when she told him she had been raped and that belief supported her credibility. Id. Because the only issue in the Whiteplume case was whether sexual contact was consensual, the Court found that particular officer's statement under those particular facts undermined our confidence in the verdict and reversed. Id. The Court held that reversal of a conviction for sexual assault was required because an experienced law enforcement officer "volunteered" an opinion as to the guilt of the defendant and to the credibility of the victim under circumstances that made it appear that it was not done inadvertently. The Court also concluded that in light of the totality of the circumstances of the Whiteplume case: "This case is a close one that truly calls upon the most careful exercise of delicate judicial judgment." 841 P.2d at 1337-41.