Evidence of a Person's Character

Under the Delaware Uniform Rules of Evidence, D.R.E. Rules 404 and 405 address the admissibility of character evidence to prove conduct. As a general rule, "evidence of a person's character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving that he acted in conformity therewith on a particular occasion." See D.R.E. Rule 404(a). However, as an exception to that rule the character of a victim of a crime may be admitted for limited purposes. See D.R.E. Rule 404(a)(2). D.R.E. 405 provides the method through which character may be proved, and at the relevant part states: (b) Specific Instances of Conduct. In cases in which character or a trait of character of a person is an essential element of a charge, claim or defense, proof may also be made of specific instances of his conduct. It is settled law that the character of a victim is not an essential element of a self-defense claim. Tice v. State, Del.Supr., 624 A.2d 399, 401 (1993). As the State argues, specific instances of conduct are not admissible to prove that a victim acted a certain way. In Tice, however, the defendant's knowledge of the victim's past actions was admissible under D.R.E. Rule 404(b) to show the state of mind to establish the claim of self-defense. Id at 402.