When prosecuting a case, the State will often attempt to introduce evidence of a motive or a scheme. There are limitations as to what is admissible, though, and if the State tries to submit evidence of other acts to the jury in an attempt to establish a defendant’s guilt, the defense can argue that it is prejudicial and should be precluded. Recently, Ellen K. Michaels of Ellen K. Michaels and Associates, PLLC, fought to prohibit the prosecution from introducing evidence of other crimes in a case in which the defendant is charged with first-degree murder, and her efforts were ultimately successful. If you are accused of murder or any other violent crime, it is advisable to speak to an assertive Michigan criminal defense attorney about your rights.
The History of the Case
Allegedly, the police were investigating the disappearance of the defendant’s co-worker, who, according to eyewitness reports, was last seen with the defendant. The police then obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s apartment and conducted an analysis that indicated the presence of DNA on the defendant’s carpet.
It is reported that the State then charged the defendant with the first-degree murder of the co-worker. Prior to trial, the prosecution moved to admit evidence that the defendant had previously strangled and attempted to rape another woman. The defense objected to the admission of other acts evidence, arguing the prosecution sought to introduce it to wrongfully demonstrate the defendant’s propensity to commit crimes. The trial court ruled in favor of the defense, and the prosecution appealed.
Admissibility of Other Acts Evidence in Criminal Cases
On appeal, the prosecution argued the defendant’s prior assault was strikingly similar to the charged offense, and therefore evidence of the assault should be admitted to establish, among other things, the defendant’s motive, intent, and common scheme, plan, or system. The appellate court disagreed. Pursuant to the Michigan Rules of Evidence, evidence of other wrongs, crimes, or acts cannot be admitted to prove a propensity to commit such acts. It may be introduced, however, for other reasons, such as proving a motive, intent, opportunity, or a plan or scheme, when such other behavior occurs prior or subsequent to or contemporaneously with the conduct at issue.
The courts conduct a three-part test to determine if other acts evidence should be admitted. First, they analyze whether the evidence is being offered for a proper purpose, then they assess whether the evidence is relevant, and finally, they determine whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs the risk of prejudice. If the court finds other acts evidence should be admitted, it may provide a limiting instruction to the jury. In the subject case, despite the fact that the prosecution offered numerous different theories of admissibility, it failed to prove the other acts evidence was admissible for any valid purpose. Thus, the appellate court upheld the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Capable Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
While it is the prosecution’s duty to try to demonstrate a defendant’s guilt, it cannot rely on unsuitable evidence to meet its burden of proof. If you are charged with a serious crime such as murder, it is critical to meet with an attorney to evaluate your potential defenses. Ellen Michaels of Ellen K. Michaels and Associates, PLLC is a capable Michigan criminal defense lawyer with the skills and experience needed to obtain favorable outcomes, and if you hire her, she will advocate zealously on your behalf. To set up a conference with Ms. Michaels, you can call 248-202-3345 or use the form online.