Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Eighth Circuit Deems Evidence of Prior Child Molestation Convictions Admissible at Child Pornography Trial
Federal Rule of Evidence 414(a) provides that
In a criminal case in which a defendant is accused of child molestation, the court may admit evidence that the defendant committed any other child molestation. The evidence may be considered on any matter to which it is relevant.
So, would evidence of prior convictions for child molestation be admissible under Rule 414 at a trial for receiving child pornography? That was the question addressed by the Eighth Circuit in its recent opinion in United States v. Knight, 2021 WL 567670 (8th Cir. 2021).
In Knight, the facts were as stated above, with the district court admitting the evidence and the defendant being convicted. On appeal, the defendant claimed that his prior convictions were inadmissible under Rule 414 and Rule 403. The Eighth Circuit disagreed, concluding that
Knight's prior child-molestation convictions were highly relevant to the child pornography charges at issue here and are expressly admissible under the rules of evidence. Rule 414(a) provides that “[i]n a criminal case in which a defendant is accused of child molestation, the court may admit evidence that the defendant committed any other child molestation. The evidence may be considered on any matter to which it is relevant.”...As defined by Rule 414(d), child molestation includes any child-pornography-related conduct prohibited by 18 U.S.C. chapter 110....Here, Knight's past convictions showed his sexual interest in children as well as his motive, intent, and knowledge in receiving and possessing child pornography. See United States v. Emmert, 825 F.3d 906, 909 (8th Cir. 2016) (“[E]vidence that [the defendant] sexually abused [two girls] is probative of [his] interest in underage girls....In this way, [the defendant]’s prior conduct shows he has a propensity for exploiting young girls and connects him to the pornographic images found on his hard drive.”). And any prejudice those convictions created was not “unfair” within the meaning of Rule 403.