Improper Admission of Evidence Required Reversal of Murder Conviction
During this murder trial, the trial court permitted the prosecution to elicit testimony from a witness that Mr. Smith committed an armed bank robbery one month after the murder in question. The Appellate Division found this was error, as the prosecution’s two stated grounds for its admission — “necessary background information explaining the nature of the relationship” between Mr. Smith and the witness and as evidence of consciousness of guilt — failed to qualify as valid exceptions to the Molineux rule.
In addition, the trial court, ruling that the defense had “opened the door,” permitted the prosecution to elicit testimony on redirect that Mr. Smith previously threatened to kill another witness. The Appellate Division concluded that this was error, as defense counsel’s cross-examination did not create a misleading impression that required corrective testimony. Finding the cumulative effect of these errors deprived Mr. Smith of a fair trial, the conviction was reversed and a new trial ordered.
Kathleen Whooley represented Mr. Smith