Prior Crimes Not So Unique as to be Admissible Under TRE 404(b) - Articles

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Posted by: Roger Nell on Jul 12, 2018
There are only so many ways that a particular crime can be committed, so how unique is a particular crime to another such that it is evidence of the identity of the perpetrator? TCCA ruled in State v. Peterson, Tenn. Crim. App. No. W2017-00308-CCA-R3-CD, Apr. 25, 2018, that the other crimes weren’t so distinctive or unique as to be admissible to prove identity in the case then-at-bar.
The court quoted several cases including State v. Roberson, 846 S.W.2d at 280 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1992).  “[M]ere similarity in the manner in which two crimes are committed does not produce the relevance necessary for admission — uniqueness does. For not only must the offenses have been committed similarly, but they must also have been committed in a unique and distinctive manner. Obviously, the more unique and distinctive the methods, the more appropriate is the inference. The converse also obtains that is, the less unique and distinctive the methods, the less appropriate the inference.”

Roger E. Nell serves as District Public Defender, 19th Judicial District and chairs the Tennessee Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section.