Friday, November 12, 2010

Wrongfully Admitted Testimony May Have Influenced the Jury

State of Utah Leber, 2010 UT 316, (Utah Court of Appeals, November 12, 2010). This Opinion was amended and the correct site is now State of Utah Leber, 2010 UT 387 (Utah Court of Appeals December 30, 2010)

Defendant was convicted of felony child abuse. At trial, the Court admitted testimony of Defendant’s prior bad acts, including: a 10 year old conviction for child abuse, a 5 year old misdemeanor assault conviction, an incident of domestic violence, and testimony of ex-wife that Defendant had engaged in domestic violence “too many times to count,” and ex-wife’s opinion that Defendant was violent with children. Defendant appealed, and argued that the evidence should have been excluded as improper character evidence. The Court of appeals affirmed the conviction on the grounds that Defendant “opened the door” to character evidence by alleging that the alleged victim had a violent character. The Supreme Court granted cert and reversed the Court of Appeals finding that Defendant did not “open the door.” The case was remanded to decide whether the wrongfully admitted evidence affected the jury verdict.

The Court of appeals found that it could not conclude that the wrongfully admitted evidence did not affect the jury. In other words, it is likely that the testimony may have influenced the jury. Reversed and Remanded for new trial.


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