Cantrell v. State

In Cantrell v. State, 731 S.W.2d 84 (Tex. Crim. App. 1987), the Court of Criminal Appeals analyzed the admissibility of an unadjudicated offense of aggravated robbery that occurred after the aggravated robbery offense for which the defendant had been charged. Under the charged offense, the complainant claimed that the defendant had confronted him about an affair that the defendant's wife confessed to having with him. Id. at 86. The wife had claimed that, during one of their encounters, the complainant had raped her. Id. at 87. The complainant testified that, during the encounter, the defendant pointed a gun and then a knife at him, threatened to cut and kill him, and demanded that the complainant write a check for $5,000 that the defendant and his wife would cash. Id. at 86. The wife testified at trial that she and the defendant went over to the complainant's residence just to discuss matters with him. Id. at 87. She denied that the defendant had a gun or knife with him during the encounter. Id. at 88. She testified that the complainant confessed to the rape and offered $5,000 as a way to make up for his actions. Id. In its rebuttal phase, the State presented the testimony, over the defendant's objection, of a woman claiming that the defendant had robbed her at gunpoint. Id. This offense occurred about ten months later. See id. at 86, 88. The woman testified that she awoke one morning in her room and saw the defendant pointing a gun at her. Id. at 88. The defendant took the woman's jewelry, cash, and automobile. Id. The defendant complained on appeal that evidence of this offense should not have been admitted. Id. The court recognized the general rule that admission of extraneous offenses is inherently prejudicial. Id. The court observed that the test for admission of extraneous offenses requires a showing that the offense is relevant to a material issue in the case and that the relevance outweighs the prejudicial effect. Id. at 89; see also Tex. R. Evid. 403, 404(b)(2). "In weighing probative value against prejudicial effect, this Court has consistently held that the State may not introduce an extraneous offense as circumstantial evidence of an element in its case-in-chief if that element can readily be inferred from other uncontested direct evidence." Cantrell, 731 S.W.2d at 89. When a defensive theory presents conflicting evidence of an element of the State's burden of proof, however, the categorical prohibition is removed. See id. For proof of intent, in particular, the degree of similarity between the offense under consideration and the extraneous offense "is not so great . . . as when identity is the material issue, and extraneous offenses are offered to prove modus operandi." Id. at 90. The court observed that the extraneous offense was relevant to prove intent and that the defense had presented evidence contesting the issue of intent. Id. at 91. Identity was not a contested issue for the tried offense. Id. at 90. The court noted, "Both the primary and extraneous offenses were aggravated robberies committed at private residences at approximately the same time of the morning. Both were committed at gunpoint shortly after the victim had awakened or was getting ready to go to work." Id. As a result, the court held, "There were sufficient common similar characteristics between the offenses." Id.