Saturday, June 29, 2019
Court of Appeals of Arizona Finds Juvenile Sex Adjudications Are Admissible Under the State's Unique Rule 404(c)
Federal Rule of Evidence 404 and most state counterparts contain two subsections: (a) and (b). Arizona's version of Rule 404 has a subsection (c). In pertinent part, Arizona Rule of Evidence 404(c) states that
In a criminal case in which a defendant is charged with having committed a sexual offense, or a civil case in which a claim is predicated on a party's alleged commission of a sexual offense, evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be admitted by the court if relevant to show that the defendant had a character trait giving rise to an aberrant sexual propensity to commit the offense charged. In such a case, evidence to rebut the proof of other crimes, wrongs, or acts, or an inference therefrom, may also be admitted.*
In its recent opinion in State v. Rose, 441 P.3d 999 (Ariz.App. 2019) the Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 2 answered an interesting question under this rule.
In Rose, Aaron Rose was charged with sexual conduct with a minor under age 15. At Rose's trial, the State admitted evidence of his juvenile adjudication for child molestation. After he was convicted, Rose appealed, claiming that it was improper to admit his juvenile adjudication. In support of this argument, he cited to Arizona Rule of Evidence 609(d), which states that evidence of a juvenile adjudication is only admissible to impeach a witness if
(1) it is offered in a criminal case;
(2) the adjudication was of a witness other than the defendant;
(3) an adult's conviction for that offense would be admissible to attack the adult's credibility; and
(4) admitting the evidence is necessary to fairly determine guilt or innocence.
In other words, if the State offered evidence of Rose's juvenile adjudication to impeach him, i.e., show that he was an untrustworthy witness, it would be inadmissible under Rule 609(d)(2). From this, Rose argued that his juvenile adjudication should be inadmissible to show that he "had a character trait giving rise to an aberrant sexual propensity to commit the offense charged."
The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, concluding that
Rose is, in effect, asking us to apply the reasoning of a rule on impeachment to a question of propensity and then, having done so, read into Rule 404(c) a limitation not expressly put there by the supreme court or, at any time since its adoption in 1997, imposed otherwise statutorily by the legislature.
Finding no grounds to accept Rose's argument, the court denied his appeal.