Last month, an Arizona court of appeals delivered an unfavorable decision for a defendant convicted of aggravated assault. The defendant was found guilty of the assault after a jury trial, and she promptly appealed by arguing that some of the evidence admitted at trial should not have been part of the case. Considering this argument, the court of appeals ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal, and her original conviction and sentence remained in place.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was staying with a friend in his spare bedroom for a temporary period of time. Eventually, the friend asked the defendant to leave, and she became angry. She refused to pack up and leave, and she began destroying parts of the friend’s property in retaliation.
After several days of this behavior, the friend insisted that the defendant leave immediately. She again refused. The friend found the defendant in the spare bedroom and noticed that a previously standing mirror was lying on the floor. The friend turned to pick up the mirror, and the defendant immediately shot the friend in the neck.
Police officers rushed to the scene, and the defendant was charged with aggravated assault. After the trial, she was pronounced guilty and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the friend should not have been allowed to testify regarding the individuals’ fighting in the days leading up to the incident in question. The Arizona rules of evidence, argued the defendant, clearly state that previous bad acts that a defendant has committed cannot be part of the prosecutor’s case in chief. Here, the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant had been retaliating and destroying the friend’s property, which unnecessarily biased them against her.
In its opinion, the court of appeals noted an important exception to this rule that previous bad acts are inadmissible at trial. When the prior bad acts provide information about a defendant’s motive, those incidents can be introduced in the form of testimony at trial. Here, the defendant’s fighting and destruction of property provided information about her motive to shoot the friend – that is, she did not want to leave his home.
Given this exception to the general rule, the defendant’s argument was rejected.
Are You on the Lookout for an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney?
At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we stay abreast of recent case law in Arizona so that we know exactly what courts are letting in and what they are keeping out. If you have been criminally charged and want high-quality representation in your assault case, give us a call so that we can listen to your story and strategize with you. We vow to make sure your case is well presented, and your rights are well defended. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call today at 480-413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to have your questions answered.