State v. Stapp

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 10-29-2014
  • Case #: A151287
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; and De Muniz, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Evidence of prior, uncharged misconduct, is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith; such evidence of prior acts may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. Evidence of prior, uncharged misconduct may also be used to impeach the credibility of the defendant's testimony.

Defendant appealed his conviction of first-degree assault. The victim and Defendant, along with another man, were at the victim’s apartment drinking and playing cue ball. At one point, the victim placed Defendant in a headlock and punched him in the head a few times. After being let go, Defendant grabbed a knife from his backpack and stabbed the victim eight times, including in the neck and back of the legs. During direct examination at trial, Defendant testified that he had never stabbed anyone before. The State argued that this opened the door to a prior incident where Defendant threatened a bicyclist with a knife. The trial court allowed the State to ask limited questions about the prior incident. On appeal, Defendant argued that the court erred in allowing the State to ask questions about the prior incident. In order for the prior incident to be admissible, it had to have a relevant and independent non-character purpose. The Court held that the prior act was not proper impeachment. However, because Defendant admitted to the stabbing and the issue for the jury was self-defense, the error was harmless. Affirmed.

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