Monday, April 02, 2012

Prior bad act evidence requires new trial

Christina Waugh won in State v. Preston, 98,629 (Kan. March 23, 2012), obtaining a new trial in a Johnson County drug prosecution. The KSC applied its precedent in State v. Boggs (blogged about here) holding that: "admission of prior drug use was not admissible when the defendant denied ever having possessed the drugs." The KSC held that the same situation presented in the instant case:
In summary, this court has adopted a rule that distinguishes between cases in which the defendant acknowledges but attempts to provide an innocent explanation for his or her actions and those in which the defendant disputes the allegations outright. As we stated in Boggs: "[T]he defendant's use of a controlled substance is not a factor that is automatically admissible as an exception to the specific mandates of K.S.A. 60-455." Applying that same analysis here, we hold that Preston's prior conviction was not admissible under K.S.A. 60-455 and Boggs because he disputed the drugs were his.

The KSC went on to hold that the "State carries the burden to demonstrate there is no reasonable probability that the error affected the trial's outcome in light of the entire record because it was the beneficiary of this nonconstitutional error." This is a pretty important point in relation to harmless error analysis. The KSC held that the state did not meet this burden and therefore reversed and remanded for a new trial.

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