Evidence of Victim's Character In Texas
In Goff v. State, 931 S.W.2d 537, 552-3 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996) court held that evidence of a relevant trait of character of the victim may be shown and that instances of bad conduct are admissible to rebut evidence of a victim's good conduct.
Actually, this was the argument of appellant in Goff, quoted by the court. Id. at 552.
Goff, supra, also said, with respect to Rule 401, "Questions of relevance should be left largely to the trial court, relying on its own observations and experience, and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Id. at 553.
Rule 401 merely says:
"Relevant evidence" means evidence having a tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. TEX. R. EVID. RULE 401 (Vernon Special Pamphlet 2000).
In general, evidence of a person's character may not be used to prove he behaved in a particular way at a given time. Tate v. State, 981 S.W.2d 189, 192 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998).
Before the promulgation of the rules of criminal evidence, a line of cases beginning with Dempsey v. State, 159 Tex. Crim. 602, 266 S.W.2d 875 (Tex. Crim. App. 1954), held that, in a homicide case, when there was some evidence of an act on the part of the victim sufficient to raise an issue about whether the defendant justifiably caused the victim's death in self-defense, evidence of both the general reputation of the victim for being of dangerous character and previous specific acts of violent misconduct was admissible. See Tate, 981 S.W.2d at 192.
This type of evidence was admissible for two different purposes:
(1) to show the reasonableness of the defendant's claim of apprehension;
(2) to show the victim was the first aggressor at the time of the killing. See Mozon v. State, 991 S.W.2d 841, 845 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999); Tate, 981 S.W.2d at 192.