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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Oct 1, 2012

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Russell Nelson Perkins (at trial and on appeal) and Gerald L. Melton (on appeal), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wanda F. Russell

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; Lacy Elaine Wilber, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee

Judge(s): HOLDER

A defendant was indicted on four counts of theft. At trial, the trial court ruled that the defendant’s prior misdemeanor convictions for passing worthless checks were admissible to impeach her credibility pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 609, which states that a conviction punishable by less than one year of imprisonment is admissible if the crime involves dishonesty or false statement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-121 (2010). The defendant elected not to testify, and the jury convicted her on three of the four counts of theft. We hold that the crime of passing worthless checks involves an element of dishonesty or false statement and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the defendant’s prior convictions could be used to impeach her credibility if she testified. We affirm the decision of the trial court.