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Rule 404. Character Evidence
- Common Sense: If you wanted to hire someone to clean your house, would you pay attention to information about the person’s trustworthiness? If you knew an applicant had a conviction for theft, selling stolen items, or burglary, would that affect your hiring decision?
- Basic Rule: Evidence of a person’s character may NOT be introduced to support an inference that the person acted on a specific occasion in conformity with that character.
- “Courts that follow the common-law tradition almost unanimously have come to disallow resort by the prosecution to any kind of evidence of a defendant’s evil character to establish a probability of his guilt…. The State may not show the defendant’s prior trouble with the law, specific criminal acts, or ill name among his neighbors, even though such facts might logically be persuasive that he is by
propensity a probable perpetrator of the crime.” Michelson v. United States, 335
U.S. 469, 475 (1948) (footnotes omitted) (citation omitted).
- Prohibited Propensity Inference – you cannot use a person’s character to suggest
that the person did something because of a propensity to do such things.
PROHIBITED: SPC Smiffy has sold stolen items in the past –– therefore he must
have sold stolen items in the current court-martial. Rule 404(a)