State v. Cox

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 07-22-2015
  • Case #: A150871
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; & DeVore, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

After the state urged the jury to use character evidence and inflammatory facts not in evidence to find Defendant guilty of the charged crimes, the trial court’s jury instruction that the jury could not consider character traits unrelated to the charged crimes, without identifying those traits, was insufficient to cure the prejudice to Defendant.

Defendant appeals a judgement of conviction for sodomy and sexual abuse. Defendant assigns error to the trial court’s denial of his motion for a mistrial. During the course of the trial, the State elicited testimony on Defendant’s past drug use, arguing that such evidence was relevant to impeach Defendant’s testimony. The trial court allowed the testimony, then later decided the testimony was propensity character evidence and instructed the State to not pursue it. During closing arguments, the State said “And for Counsel to say, ‘Yeah, my guy is a drug dealer; yeah, my guy is a wife beater; yeah, my guy is just a bad guy and he’s a jerk, but you should believe he wouldn’t sexually abuse his daughter,’ that doesn’t really make sense. He’s kind of the exact guy you would expect to abuse his daughter.” The trial court sustained Defendant’s objection, denied his motion for mistrial, and issued a jury instruction it believed was sufficient to cure any prejudice to Defendant. The Court of Appeals found the closing argument likely had a prejudicial effect and the trial court abused its discretion by giving a general jury instruction on propensity character evidence instead of granting a mistrial. By not specifying the comments the jury was not allowed to use in deliberations, the instruction was not sufficient to negate the inference the State asked the jury to draw. Reversed and remanded.

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