State uses “other crimes” evidence to show defendant’s motive

A Utah prosecutor was entitled to use “other crimes evidence” to show a defendant’s motive, a Utah appeals court said. The defendant was convicted of solicitation to commit aggravated murder. The prosecution alleged that the defendant, who was incarcerated, attempted to get a prison-buddy to murder a woman who was a former romantic interest. During the course of the trial the prosecution used evidence of the man’s other crimes to show motive and intent for the murder solicitation.

The defendant was incarcerated at the time of the solicitation for assaulting the woman he allegedly wanted his fellow inmate to murder. The other crimes evidence concerned the assault and included a graphic 911 tape which the defendant alleged prejudiced the jury against him.

A Utah appeals court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of his assault on the woman. The appeals court found that the trial court scrupulously examined the evidence of the assault and that it was admitted for a proper, relevant and noncharacter purpose.

“The trial court’s actions reflect an understanding of the gravity of the evidence and its potential impact on the jury,” the appeals court concluded. “Weighing these factors in light of the unique circumstances of the case, the trial court concluded that the assault evidence could be admitted. We are convinced that the trial court undertook the level of thoughtful consideration required under rule 404(b), and we hold that it did not exceed its discretion by admitting the evidence.”

Source: State v. Losee, 283 P.3d 10552012 UT App 213

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