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refers to a person's general propensity or disposition e.g honesty, fairness, peacefulness, or violence.
Potential purposes for admissibility of character evidence:
1. Person's character is essential element in the case. (only in limited civil cases)
2. Character evidence to prove conduct in conformity with character at the time of the litigated event, a/k/a character as circumstantial evidence of conduct on a particular occasion.
3. Witness's bad character for truthfulness to impeach credibility.
Criminal case- Defendant's character
evidence of the defendant's character to prove conduct on a particular occasion inadmissible during the Prosecution case and chief.
However, the Defendant, during the defense, may introduce relevant character trait by reputation or opinion testimony of a character witness to prove conduct, which OPENS THE DOOR to rebuttal by the prosecution.
Criminal case- prosecution's rebuttal.
If the defendant opened the door by calling character witnesses, the prosecution may rebut:
1. by cross examining defendant's character witnesses with "have you heard" or "did you know" questions about specific acts of the defendant that reflect adversely on the particular character trait that defendant has introduced (prosecution must have good faith basis for the question);
Limited purpose: to impeach character witness's knowledge about the defendant; and/or
2. by calling its own reputation or opinion witnesses to contradict defendant's witnesses.
Victim's character- self defense case.
In addition to direct evidence that the alleged victim of an assault was the first aggressor, the criminal D may introduce evidence of victim's violent character to prove victim's conduct in conformity, e.g circumstantial evidence that the victim was the first aggressor.
Proper method: Character witness may testify to victim's reputation for violence and may give opinion- (not specific acts)
Prosecution rebuttal: evidence of victim's good character for peacefullness (with reputation or opinion). In addition, prosecution may prove defendant's character for violence.
Homicide: if defendant offers evidence of any kind that victim was the first aggressor, prosecution may introduce evidence of victim's good character for violence.
Separate rule of relevance- If the defendant, at the time of the alleged self-defense was aware of the victim's violent reputation or prior specific acts of violence, such awareness may be proven to show the defendant's state of mind- fear- to help prove that he acted reasonably in responding as he did to the victim's agression.
Victim's Character- sexual misconduct case
Under Rape shield law, both criminal and civil cases where defendant is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct, the following evidence about the victim is ordinarily inadmissible.
- Opinion or reputation evidence about the victim's sexual propensity,
- evidence of specific sexual behavior of the victim
Victim's Character- sexual misconduct case- exception in criminal case
May be admissible if:
1. specific sexual behavior of the victim to prove that someone other than the defendant was the source of semen or injury to the victim
2. Victim's sexual activity with the defendant if the defense of consent is asserted or
3. where the exclusion would violate the defendant's right of due process. e.g love triangle defense.
Victim's Character- sexual misconduct case- exception in civil case
may admit evidence of specific sexual behavior or sexual propensity of the victim if its probative value substantially outweighs the danger of harm to the victim and unfair prejudice to any party.
Character evidence in civil case
generally inadmissible to prove a person's conduct on a particular occasion.
Evidence of person's character is admissible in civil action where such character is an essential element of a claim or defense. (provable by reputation, opinion, and specific acts). only three situations:
1. a tort alleging negligent hiring or entrustment
2. defamation tort
3. child custody dispute.
Defendant's other crimes for non-character purpose.
other crimes or specific bad acts of defendant are not admissible during the prosecution's case-in-chief if the only purpose is to suggest that because of defendant's bad character he is more likely to have committed the crime currently charged.
BUT, defendant's bad acts or other crimes may be admissible to show: something specific about crime charged, something separate and apart from mere propensity to commit the crime.)
The five most common non-character purpose are MIMIC
Motive, Intent, Mistake or accident, absence thereof, identity, common scheme or plan.
If MIMIC category is satisfied, the prosecution may use other- crimes evidence as part of its case-in-chief. MIMIC evidence is not dependent on d's introduction of favorable character evidence.
Methods of proof of mimic-purpose crimes
1. conviction or
2. by evidence (witness, etc) that proves the crime occurred: conditional relevancy standard- prosecution need only produce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that defendant committed the other crime.
3. upon d's request, the proseution must give pretrial notice of intent to introduce MIMIC evidence. In all cases, court must also weigh probative value vs. prejudice and give limiting instructions if MIMIC evidence is admitted.
MIMIC IN CIVIL CASES- if relevant to a non- character purpose, MIMIC evidence can also be used in civil cases, such as tort actions for fraud or assault.
Other sexual misconduct to show propensity in sex-crime prosecution or civil action
In a case alleging sexual assault or child molestation, PRIOR SPECIFIC sexual misconduct of the defendant is admissible as part of the case-in-chief of prosecution (criminal or civil) for any relevant purpose, including D's propensity for sex crimes, as circumstantial evidence of conduct on the occasion in question. No rep or opinion.
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