Defendant Loses Appeal Based On Prejudicial Evidence
The state is allowed to introduce evidence that impeaches a defendant’s testimony, but they are not allowed to introduce evidence that would unfairly prejudice the jury against a defendant. In this case, a defendant claimed he lost his first-degree murder case after the state introduced evidence of 8 prior convictions some of which were for violent felonies. The defendant had argued that he acted in self-defense and believed his life was in imminent danger when he pulled the trigger. The defendant lost this appeal.
An affirmative defense under the law means that the defendant is not disputing the facts, or in this case, the defendant did not dispute that he pulled the trigger and ended a life. However, the defendant claimed he had lawful justification for pulling the trigger. As an affirmative argument, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to prove that they acted in self-defense. However, the standard is not as high as the prosecution’s. The defendant must establish that they had just cause to act in self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, they must establish that it was more likely than not. The defendant failed to convince a jury that he had just cause to pull the trigger.
The appeal: Evidence that prejudiced the jury
The defendant filed notice with the court that he planned on asserting self-defense as his defense to the charges. In response, the prosecution determined it would enter into evidence 8 prior felony convictions and made the defendant aware that if he testified, these convictions would be entered into evidence. The state’s evidence was an attempt to impeach the defendant’s credibility and establish him as an individual who would take a life under the right circumstances. The trial court permitted this into evidence but prevented the state from cross-examining the defendant to discuss some—but not all—of the circumstances surrounding the convictions.
The court will deny the state the right to enter evidence concerning prior convictions when the defendant pleads not guilty on the basis of “I didn’t do it.” In that case, there is very little reason for the state to enter evidence of previous convictions. The state’s job is to prove that the defendant committed a crime and entering previous convictions does not accomplish that.
If, however, the defendant argues self-defense, the state can, in some cases, enter evidence that is unlikely based on the fact that the defendant placed himself in repeated situations during which violent assaults ensued. In this case, the matter had to do with a lover’s quarrel. The defendant fired into a home, killing the victim.
The state was eventually able to convince a jury that the defendant (beyond a reasonable doubt) murdered the victim with malicious intent and was not in legitimate fear of his own life when he pulled the trigger. An appeals court upheld the decision, and the defendant is currently serving his sentence.
Talk to an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Patel Law, PC represents the interests of those charged with serious crimes in Illinois. Call our Champaign personal injury lawyers today to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.