A First-Degree Murder Defendant Challenged Testimony Concerning Previous Sexual Misconduct

A First-Degree Murder Defendant Challenged Testimony Concerning Previous Sexual Misconduct Which Allegedly Took Place Two Years Prior to the Killing:

In Garron v. State, 528 So.2d 353 (Fla. 1988), a first-degree murder defendant challenged testimony concerning previous sexual misconduct:

The next issue raised by appellant involves the admission of certain "similar fact" evidence pursuant to the Florida Evidence Code, section 90.404(2), Florida Statutes (1981), and Williams v. State, 110 So.2d 654 (Fla.), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 847, 80 S.Ct. 102, 4 L.Ed.2d 86 (1959).

The evidence admitted includes the testimony of L.Garron that appellant had previously engaged in alleged sexual misconduct with his two stepdaughters.

This activity took place more than two years prior to the killings.

The state claims that the evidence is relevant to show appellant's motive for killing his wife and stepdaughter in that he was attempting to prevent his wife from taking the stepdaughters away to avoid his improper advances.

In closely examining similar fact evidence, one critical issue of concern is whether the evidence is being used to prove any relevant issue besides character.

Here, the state's theory is that the evidence of the alleged misconduct is relevant to appellant's motive for the murders.

The focal point of analysis is whether there is actually any similarity between the alleged misconduct and the crime for which appellant stands trial.

That is, does the "similar" fact bear any logical resemblance to the charged crime.

The state claims that Linda Garron's testimony that prior to the shootings the appellant touched her thigh sufficiently establishes the requisite connection between the prior bad acts and the present crime.

We believe that this "connection" is far too tenuous to support the admission of the similar fact evidence. Even if there were similarities between the events, they are in no way relevant to show motive.

In Williams, the similar fact evidence involved evidence that the defendant, who was charged with rape, had previously committed the same act in precisely the same manner.

Williams had hidden in the back seat of the victim's car, waited for the victim to return, and raped her. the state produced a witness who testified that Williams waited in her car and committed the identical act in the same parking lot at about the same hour as the attack on the victim.

This Court allowed the evidence to be admitted under the theory that it showed Williams' plan or pattern of operation.

In this case, however, the alleged sexual misconduct in no way resembles the act for which appellant was convicted.

Moreover, the prior acts are far too remote in time to support any allegation that they could have provided appellant with a motive for the killings.

As such, the only possible issue for which this evidence could be used is to prove character and propensity.

As the statute states, these issues are not valid grounds for the admission of similar fact evidence.

A danger of unfair prejudice arises if alleged acts of sexual misconduct are put before the jury when such evidence is not relevant to prove a material issue.

This danger renders the evidence inadmissible. Garron, 528 So.2d at 357-58 (footnote omitted).