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Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Friday, February 3, 2012

(Attempted) Murder Was The Case: Court Of Appeals Of Iowa Finds No Error In Impeachment Of Defense Witness

Similar to its federal counterpartIowa Rule of Evidence 5.609(a)(1) provides that

Evidence that a witness other than the accused has been convicted of a crime shall be admitted, subject to rule 5.403, if the crime was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year pursuant to the law under which the witness was convicted, and evidence that an accused has been convicted of such a crime shall be admitted if the court determines that the probative value of admitting this evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to the accused....

So, let's say that a defendant is convicted of intimidation with a dangerous weapon, willful injury causing serious injury, going armed with intent, and possession of a firearm as a felon. and let's say that a defense witness has an attempted murder conviction, with his date of release from that conviction being 8 years before the defendant's trial. Should the prosecution be able to impeach the defense witness with evidence of this conviction? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Iowa in State v. Love, 2012 WL 300321 (Iowa.App. 2012), the answer is "yes."

In Love, Toraino Love was convicted of the aforementioned crimes. One vital piece of evidence used to convict Love was the testimony of Romeo Mabry, a witness for the prosecution. This testimony contradicted a handwritten statement written by Mabry, who claimed that he write the statement because he was threatened by Love and Quinteze Latiker.

At trial, Love impeached Mabry through his conviction for criminal mischief, and the prosecution in turn impeached Latiker through his conviction for attempted murder. After Love was convicted, he appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court erred in permitting the prosecution to impeach Latiker with evidence of his conviction for attempted murder.

In response, the Court of Appeals of Iowa noted that

The State concedes and we acknowledge that Latiker's attempted-murder conviction did not involve premeditation or dishonesty and thus carried low probative value....Additionally, Latiker's release from confinement as a result of the conviction occurred nearly eight years before the date of trial. Although within the ten-year limit for purposes of the rule, the probative value of the conviction diminishes with each passing year.

That said, teh court then found that

The probative value of the attempted murder conviction was increased by the fact that the district court allowed Love to impeach Mabry with his prior conviction for criminal mischief in the third degree. Latiker's testimony was in direct opposition to Mabry's testimony. Given the facts of this case, especially Latiker's assurances that he had no reason to lie on behalf of Love, we find evidence of Latiker's prior conviction allowed the jury to more accurately assess the credibility of the two witnesses, increasing its probative value.

Moreover, the court did "not find persuasive Love's argument that the similarity between the charges against him and Latiker's attempted-murder conviction compounded the risk that Latiker's prior conviction unfairly prejudiced Love." 

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2012/02/similar-to-its-federal-counterpartiowa-rule-of-evidence-5609a1provides-that-evidence-that-a-witness-other-than-the-a.html

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