State v. Rice

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 12-13-2017
  • Case #: A155198
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Hadlock, C.J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Allen, J. pro tempore
  • Full Text Opinion

In determining whether to admit evidence of a defendant's past improprieties, a court must look to whether the state has established and shown “some substantial connecting link between the two acts” to determine whether evidence of a prior act could be used to establish motive to commit the charged act. State v. Wright, 283 Or App 160, 171 (2016) (quoting State v. Turnidge, 359 Or 364, 451 (2016)).

Defendant appealed a judgment of conviction for six crimes stemming from a physical altercation with his girlfriend. Defendant assigned error to the trial court’s admission of testimony from previous girlfriends concerning prior acts against them. On appeal, Defendant argued that the testimony was only offered as “propensity purpose” and “’was not relevant to defendant’s mental state other than by showing his propensity to commit acts of domestic violence.” Defendant also argued that the evidence was inadmissible under the doctrine of chances because the incidents were not similar enough to the case at hand. In response, State argued that the testimony of Defendant’s prior girlfriends was admissible under "both the doctrine-of-chances…and hostile motive [theories.]" In determining whether to admit evidence of a defendant's past improprieties, a court must look to whether the state has established and shown “some substantial connecting link between the two acts” to determine whether evidence of a prior act could be used to establish motive to commit the charged act. State v. Wright, 283 Or App 160, 171 (2016) (quoting State v. Turnidge, 359 Or 364, 451 (2016)). The Court of Appeals held that, because Defendant’s hostile acts were against the same class of persons in prior and current acts, the testimony would shed light to the motive and mens rea of the defendant as well as establish a “hostile motive” against another victim. Thus, the Court held that the trial court did not err in admitting the disputed testimony. Affirmed.

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