State v. Guthrie

In State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995), the Court explained that in order to perform a "Rule 403 balance, we must assess the degree of probity of the evidence, which, in turn, depends on its relation to the evidence and strategy presented at trial in general." 194 W.Va. at 682, 461 S.E.2d at 188. In Guthrie, the Court acknowledged that the prosecution's "need for this evidence and the closely related question of alternatives available" must also be evaluated in determining the admission of excessively prejudicial evidence. 194 W.Va. at 683, 461 S.E.2d at 189. "In applying Rule 403, it is pertinent whether a litigant has some alternative way to deal with the evidence that it claims the need to rebut that would involve a lesser risk of prejudice and confusion." Id. at 683, 461 S.E.2d at 189. The Court recognized that some statements concerning an individual simply do not fall within the definition of character evidence. "Quite clearly, evidence that the defendant was a 'Bible-reading man' and his religious beliefs are not admissible under the same rule because they simply do not concern a pertinent character trait." 194 W.Va. at 681, 461 S.E.2d at 187.