State v. Zielinski

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 09-20-2017
  • Case #: A155888
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Armstrong, P.J. for the Court; Hadlock, C.J.; & Allen, J. pro tempore
  • Full Text Opinion

An actor’s personal characteristics are relevant to “the actor’s situation,” and are thereby admissible to support the defense of EED, whereas an actor’s personality characteristics are not. State v. Ott, 297 Or 375, 395-96 (1984)

Defendant appealed from a conviction of murder with a firearm, ORS 163.115, ORS 161.610. Defendant assigned error to the trial court’s disallowance of expert testimony regarding Defendant’s anxiety disorder, brought forth in support of the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance, (EED). On appeal, Defendant contended that the evidence was improperly excluded because an "anxiety disorder is relevant to the subjective component of EED, that is, ‘the actor’s situation.’" In Response, State argued that an “actor’s situation” did not entail consideration of a defendant's personality traits, but only “the events and circumstances that led up to the homicide.” As a general rule, ORS 163.135 allows evidence relevant to “the actor’s situation” to be admitted in support of an EED defense. An actor’s personal characteristics are relevant to “the actor’s situation,” and are thereby admissible to support the defense of EED, whereas an actor’s personality characteristics are not.  State v. Ott, 297 Or 375, 395-96 (1984). The Court of Appeals distinguished between personal characteristics and personality characteristics, and determined that personal characteristics are clinical conditions involving "acute symptoms…that are susceptible to psychological and medical treatment," whereas personality characteristics are "non-clinical personality traits." The Court concluded that anxiety disorder is a personal characteristic because it more closely resembles "physical illness or disability" than it does a non-clinical condition. The Court held that evidence of Defendant’s anxiety disorder diagnosis was relevant to the defense of EED, and that the trial court erred in excluding it. Reversed and remanded. 

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