Admission of the Evidence of the Prior Conviction Conduct

In People v. Harris (1988) 60 Cal.App.4th 727, the court found an abuse of discretion in the admission of the evidence of the prior conviction conduct. (Id. at p. 741.) The defendant, a mental health nurse, was charged with several sexual offenses after he allegedly took advantage of two emotionally and physically vulnerable women in his care. (Id. at pp. 730-731.) At trial, the prosecutor introduced evidence of the defendant's prior violent criminal behavior through the testimony of two police officers. (Id. at p. 733.) They described finding a woman who had been severely beaten, was covered in blood, and appeared to be unconscious. (Id. at pp. 734-735.) The defendant, whose crotch was bloody, was found hiding nearby. (Ibid.) It was also stipulated that the defendant had been convicted of burglary with great bodily injury. (Id. at p. 735.) The reviewing court stated that the evidence was "inflammatory in the extreme," and would have allowed the jury to speculate as to the defendant's role in the crime in light of his conviction for burglary. (Id. at p. 738.) It also noted that the jury could have concluded that the defendant was never punished for the prior rape, and thus might have been inclined to punish him by convicting him of the charged offenses. (Ibid.) The Harris court further found that the remoteness of the evidence weighed heavily in favor of exclusion, since the prior offense had occurred 23 years earlier. (Id. at p. 739.) Though recognizing that admission of the evidence would not consume much time during trial (ibid.), the court concluded that evidence that the defendant was a violent sex offender had little relevance to the " 'breach of trust' sex crimes." (Id. at pp. 740-741.) In sum: In People v. Harris, a mental health nurse was accused of licking and fondling two of his patients. Although the assaults involved "a breach of trust by a caregiver, the abuse the victims suffered" was "not unusual or shocking." (People v. Harris, supra, 60 Cal.App.4th at p. 738.) However, the jury was allowed to hear evidence implicating defendant in a 23-year-old incident in which the victim was viciously beaten and sexually exploited during a "perverse attack" in her apartment. (Ibid.) Because, the incident was, inter alia, extremely inflammatory and remote, and because it was so dissimilar to the charged offenses that it was not particularly probative of defendant's predisposition to commit them, the Harris court determined the incident should not have been admitted into evidence. (Id. at pp. 736-741.)