Hess v. State

In Hess v. State (Alaska 2001) 20 P.3d 1121, the Alaska Supreme Court stated that "evidence of a prior acquittal may cause confusion if the jury takes it as proof that the defendant is 'innocent' of the prior charge, rather than as evidence that reasonable doubt existed as to at least one element of the acquitted charge. But a high risk of unfair prejudice may outweigh the risk of confusion, and a jury instruction explaining the requisite levels of proof may minimize the risk of confusion." ( Id. at p. 1129.) Evidence that a defendant was acquitted of a prior sex offense does not mean that the crime did not happen or that the defendant did not commit that offense; it means "only that the state did not prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt" ( id. at p. 1125).