In United States v. Coons, No. 200900366 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 22,
2009) (unpublished), the issue was whether the military judge erred by
suppressing the appellee's statement for
lack of corroboration.
During an interview with NCIS, the appellee told investigators that he
began abusing his then seven-year-old daughter around December 1999. He
specifically admitted to five incidents of abuse that took place in their
living room. He would position the two couches together to create a bed
of sorts, would lie there with his stepdaughter and
sexually assault her, while his stepson played on the floor. The stepson testified at trial
that the appellee would push the couches together and he would play on
the floor while his sister would be on the couches with the appellee.
Appellee's wife also testified that when confronted with a poem written
by the stepdaughter, appellee began crying. At trial, the stepdaughter
denied anything more than open mouth kissing with appellee. The defense
filed a motion to suppress these statements for lack of corroboration.
The military judge granted the motion to suppress.
The NMCCA held that the military judge erred. The NMCCA started by citing
to Mil. R. Evid. 304(g) for the proposition that, "[c]orroboration
of the essential facts must be established by independent evidence, direct
or circumstantial, sufficient to justify an inference of their truth."
The court held that the "amount of corroboration needed is 'very
slight' or 'slight.'" See United
States v. Cotrill, 45 M.J. 485, 489 (C.A.A.F. 1997). In this case, the
court found that the military judge applied an "overly restrictive
interpretation of the corroboration rule." The NMCCA noted that the
stepson confirmed multiple portions of the appellee's statement, including:
1) the fact that the appellee would rearrange the couches to create a
bed; 2) the fact that he would sit on the floor while the appellee and
his sister were on the couch together; and, 3) the location of the appellee's
wife was not mentioned, which provided access and opportunity to commit
the assaults. The court noted that the stepdaughter confirmed open mouth
kissing, which provides demonstrable evidence of grooming. Additionally,
the wife confirmed that she engaged in extra-marital affairs during this
period, which provided a possible motive. All of these facts provide corroboration
for the appellee's statements. The military judge erred by suppressing
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