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Evidence of Other Crimes

Posted by John P. Rutkowski | Sep 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

Criminal law -- Evidence -- Other crimes -- Similar fact -- Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of a North Carolina case in which defendant admitted to shooting at a man where state presented testimony from firearms expert who determined the bullets from North Carolina crime and shooting underlying charges in instant case were fired from the same gun -- Evidence was relevant to prove identity, which was a contested issue at trial, and was not unfairly prejudicial

LARA SNYDER, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. 1st District. Case No. 1D22-0275. September 13, 2023. On appeal from the Circuit Court for Columbia County. Leandra G. Johnson, Judge. Counsel: Jessica J. Yeary, Public Defender, and Ross Scott Haine, II, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant. Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Darcy O. Townsend, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

(PER CURIAM.) Snyder claims the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence relating to a North Carolina crime under the similar fact evidence rule, section 90.404(2)(a). In the underlying case, Snyder was accused of shooting and killing a man. In the North Carolina crime, Snyder admitted to shooting at a man two days earlier. The State put forward an expert in firearms who determined the bullets from both crimes were fired from the same gun.

Section 90.404(2)(a) allows similar fact evidence to be admitted “when relevant to prove a material fact in issue, including, but not limited to, proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, but it is inadmissible when the evidence is relevant solely to prove bad character or propensity.” The North Carolina case was relevant to prove identity, which was a contested issue at trial. Admission of this evidence was also not unfairly prejudicial under section 90.403. “[A]lmost all evidence introduced during a criminal prosecution is prejudicial to a defendant,” and “a trial judge must balance the import of the evidence with respect to the case of the party offering it against the danger of unfair prejudice.” Sexton v. State, 697 So. 2d 833, 837 (Fla. 1997). We affirm the trial judge's balancing here; this evidence was important and its admission was not to show bad character.

We reject Snyder's second evidentiary argument without further discussion.


About the Author

John P. Rutkowski

Mr. Rutkowski has been practicing law for the past twenty-seven years. Prior to going to law school Mr. Rutkowski served as a deputy sheriff before retiring to attend law school. Upon graduating law school Mr. Rutkowski served as an Assistant State Attorney in Florida before going in to private practice and representing good people in bad times who have been accused of criminal offenses, dui, and appeals.


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