At some time or another, every person has acted in a way that they would rather not remember. Usually, these acts are forgettable and perhaps only remembered by the actor who will hopefully learn from their past indiscretions. However, sometimes when a defendant is charged with a crime and is standing trial, the prosecution will attempt to enter “prior bad acts” of the defendant into evidence to help build a case against them.
The Rules of Evidence state that the prosecution may not introduce evidence of prior bad acts to prove the defendant acted in like the earlier acts. For example, if a defendant is on trial for robbery, the prosecution may not use evidence of the defendant committing prior robberies to lead a jury to conclude that because a defendant committed the same crime in the past, they must have committed the current crime.
Instead, to comply with the Rules of Evidence, the prosecution must come up with another reason to admit the evidence of the prior bad act so as not to prejudice the jury.
However, in the case of Boone v. State of Alabama, the prosecution was able to get evidence of the defendant’s association with a gang admitted into evidence. The prosecutor used this evidence to prejudice a jury into believing Mr. Boone’s gang affiliation gave him a propensity towards violence.
Mr. Boone was on trial for attempted murder, and his defense argued evidence of his gang affiliation was in no way relevant to the shooting. Mr. Boone’s defense furthered their argument by stating evidence of his gang affiliation was extremely prejudicial to the jury, but their objections were overruled. Boone was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Boone appealed and the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the trial court. However, Boone petitioned the Supreme Court for review of his case and finally the Supreme Court reversed the trial and appellate court’s decisions. The Supreme Court found that the prior bad act of gang affiliation was irrelevant to Boone’s motive or intent in the shooting. Rather, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that a personal dispute between Mr. Boone and the victim was the cause for the shooting, not Mr. Boone’s affiliation with a gang.
Knowing both the Rules of Evidence is extremely vital to ensuring a criminal defendant receives a fair and impartial trial. Objecting to certain evidentiary issues during trial preserves the record so in the event the trial court makes a mistake in their ruling, an issue like the one faced by Mr. Boone is appealable.
The Rules of Evidence are extremely precise and knowing the how to navigate the formalities of trial is something that only the most experienced attorneys can handle effectively.
If you need a criminal attorney, contact Ingram Law LLC, or Joseph A. Ingram at (205) 335-2640 for a consultation.