State v. Williams

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 08-14-2013
  • Case #: A145644
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Schuman, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under OEC 404(3), in sexual abuse cases a defendant's history of sexual wrongs, crimes, or acts is inadmissible character evidence unless the evidence is logically relevant to the defendant's specific intent of the alleged wrongdoing.

Shawn Gary Williams ("Williams") appealed a conviction of two counts of first degree sexual abuse for his conduct with a five year old girl. According to the victim, Williams touched her vagina underneath her underwear and he forced her to touch his penis. During the trial, the judge allowed testimony from William’s previous landlord that after Williams was evicted the landlord found two pairs of girls’ underwear. Both pairs of underwear were admitted into evidence at the trial. The trial court determined that William’s possession of the underwear was admissible to show his specific intent of purposeful sexual touching, and the prejudicial effect of the evidence did not outweigh its probative value. Williams argued that because his specific intent was not a contested issue in the case, the State offered the evidence to prove he was a pedophile and was therefore inadmissible character evidence under OEC 404(3). Further, Williams argued that even if it was relevant, the prejudicial effect heavily outweighed the probative value. The State argued the underwear was relevant for non-character purposes, specifically his intent in this case, and should be analyzed under OEC 401. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred when it admitted William’s possession of girls’ underwear because the alleged acts themselves, if taken by the jury to be true, indicate intent and therefore the girls’ underwear is not relevant to William’s specific intent. Reversed and Remanded.

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