A jury is given an oath at the beginning of trial that reads: “….you will render a true verdict, only on the evidence introduced and in accordance with the instructions of the court, so help you God.” Subsequently in the instructions the jury is instructed, “When it is time for you to decide the case, you are only allowed to consider the evidence that was admitted in the case.” You may have deduced at this point the significance of what evidence is admitted, and when that evidence includes prior questionable sexual or criminal conduct, what are referred to as “prior bad acts” then a jury can reach the wrong verdict for the wrong reasons.
Criminal Sexual Conduct and the Exception to Rule of Prior Bad Acts.
Generally, evidence of your prior bad acts is not admissible pursuant to Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) 404b. But your past can come back to haunt you when it falls under one of the permitted and enumerated exceptions that we’ll address below. Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 768.27a is not an enumerated exception under 404b, but by legislation permits the admission of other ‘listed’ prior bad acts involving a minor when the defendant is charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. Further, our Michigan Supreme Court has held that MCL 768.27a prior bad acts is not prohibited by 404b but only must meet the threshold of MRE 403 and to use the People v. Watkins balancing test. One of the most important roles for a Trial Attorney is not their well-crafted opening statement or questioning of witnesses, but what happens before the trial ever begins, and specifically preventing potentially damaging evidence from ever getting to the jury.