Can Illinois Prosecutors Introduce Evidence Of “Other Crimes” To Prove My Guilt?
One of the basic rules of criminal law in Illinois is that a jury cannot convict a defendant because they think he is a bad person. The State’s Attorney cannot introduce evidence of “other crimes” the defendant may have committed simply to show they have a propensity to commit the crime for which they are on trial. Put simply, a jury cannot convict a defendant based on “character” evidence. However, it is possible to introduce other-crimes evidence for other purposes, such as proving the defendant’s motive or intent to commit the charged crime.
Illinois Appeals Court Orders New Trial in Attempted Murder Case
An Illinois appeals court recently ordered a new trial in an attempted murder case after finding the trial judge improperly allowed the prosecution to introduce other-crimes evidence regarding the defendant’s alleged drug dealing. This case, People v. Rowland, involved a defendant accused of trying to kill his estranged spouse. The parties had been living separately. One day the spouse visited the defendant’s home. During this visit, the spouse alleged the defendant beat her and stabbed her in the neck, after which he fled the scene.
The State’s Attorney charged the defendant with attempted murder, domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, and unlawful restraint. Before trial, the defense suggested their strategy would be to argue the spouse was addicted to methamphetamine, which cast doubt on her credibility as the prosecution’s key witness.
In an attempt to get ahead of this, the State’s Attorney raised the issue of the spouse’s drug use on direct examination at trial. The spouse admitted to using methamphetamine. The prosecutor then asked where she obtained her drugs. The spouse testified she got them from the defendant.
The defense later moved for a mistrial, arguing that the prosecution’s solicitation of testimony implicating the defendant as a drug dealer was inadmissible other-crimes evidence. The trial judge denied the request. The jury subsequently convicted the defendant on all charges.
On appeal, the defendant argued the prosecution acted improperly by presenting evidence that he engaged in drug dealing without disclosing that information prior to trial. The Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court rejected the state’s contention that the drug testimony did not constitute other-crimes evidence. After all, the “possession and delivery of meth are both criminal offenses” in Illinois. Even if the State had no plans to charge the defendant with those crimes, it could not use the allegations to paint him a bad light before the jury on an unrelated attempted murder charge.
The appellate court further noted that it was one thing to solicit testimony regarding the spouse’s drug use in an attempt to get in front of the defense. But it was unnecessary for the prosecutor to ask the spouse who gave her the drugs. And while such an error might have been “harmless” in the overall scheme of things, the state did not argue as such before the appellate court, so that argument was forfeited. Accordingly, the Fourth District said the defendant was entitled to a new trial.
Contact Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Baku N. Patel Today
When you are on trial for a serious, violent felony, it is important to explore all avenues for poking holes in the prosecution’s case. An experienced Champaign violent crimes lawyer can help ensure the courts respect your rights in this area. If you are facing charges, contact Patel Law, PC, today to schedule a case evaluation.