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CRIMINAL 13: Prosecutor introduced evidence of five other domestic violence incidents.

This case arises from two incidents of domestic violence between defendant and the victim when they were alone in the victim’s home in Michigan. In September, the victim got away from defendant and ran to the home of a neighbor, who called the police. Defendant was arrested.

In October, defendant threatened to kill the victim and put his hand around her throat, which caused her to have difficulty breathing. At some point, the victim’s friend entered the house. The victim’s friend called the police, and defendant was arrested.

Domestic Violence

Defendant was charged with two counts of assault by strangulation and two counts of domestic violence, third offense. During trial, the prosecutor introduced evidence of five other domestic violence incidences between defendant and the victim.

Admitting Evidence of Prior Acts

Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of his prior acts of domestic violence against the victim under MCL 768.27b(1) and MRE 404(b).

The language of MCL 768.27b clearly indicates that trial courts have discretion to admit relevant evidence of other domestic assaults to prove any issue, even the character of the accused, if the evidence meets the standard of MRE 403. This evidence can be admitted at trial because a complete picture of a defendant’s history tends to shed light on the likelihood that a given crime was committed.

MRE 403 provides: Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. Evidence is not unfairly prejudicial simply because it is damaging.

Trial

The court concluded that the evidence had significant probative value for establishing defendant’s propensity to physically assault the victim. The jury convicted defendant of the lesser offense of assault and battery for the September incident, assault by strangulation for the October incident, and domestic violence for each incident. Defendant was sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

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