Ex parte Sparks

In Ex parte Sparks, 730 So. 2d 113, 115 (Ala. 1998) the Court reversed a conviction because the prosecutor had improperly elicited testimony about the defendant's prior convictions, in violation of the exclusionary rule, and it held that a curative instruction was not sufficient to overcome the prejudice in that case. The Sparks opinion stated: "This Court cannot condone a prosecutor's attempt to elicit testimony about a defendant's prior convictions in violation of the general exclusionary rule against such evidence. Moreover, reported cases involving such improper questioning--and a subsequent denial of the defendant's motion for a mistrial--are all too common .... Consequently, it appears to this Court that the current approach to these situations is inadequate insofar as it allows prosecutors a 'free shot' at asking an improper question about a defendant's prior criminal record while providing little means to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial other than a mere corrective instruction to the jurors, which is administered only after the defendant has been exposed to the prejudice caused by the prosecutor's questioning." (730 So. 2d at 115.) In Sparks, the defendant was on trial for charges of driving under the influence. The prosecutor asked him on cross-examination if he recalled having been convicted of DUI on a previous occasion. The Court found the question to be so highly prejudicial that it could not be corrected with a mere corrective instruction to the jury. (730 So. 2d at 116.)