Scarbrough v. State – Case Brief Summary (Tennessee)

In Scarbrough v. State, 181 S.W.3d 650 (Tenn. 2005), the defendant was convicted of, among other things, felony murder and aggravated burglary.

The felony murder conviction was reversed on appeal and he was retried. The State filed a pre-trial motion arguing that collateral estoppel prohibited the defendant from asserting that he did not commit the offense of aggravated burglary.

The trial court agreed and granted the interlocutory appeal requested by the defendant.

On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the use of collateral estoppel by the State against the defendant to establish an essential element of the charged offense violates the right to a jury trial. Scarbrough, 181 S.W.3d at 652.

The Tennessee Supreme Court also concluded that the State could introduce the prior underlying felony conviction in are-trial on a charge of felony murder "if the trial court determines that its probative value is not substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice to the defendant." Id.

The Scarbrough Court stated that this approach "strikes an appropriate balance between the interests of both the State and the defendant. Id. at 660.