Arizona Defendant Argues Trial Court Erred in Denying Him Opportunity to Present Evidence of Victim’s Violent History

In a recent case arising out of an altercation between neighbors, the Arizona Court of Appeals denied the defendant’s appeal of his convictions and sentences for aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, and assault. After the defendant was originally charged with these offenses, his case went to trial, and a jury found him guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court should have allowed him to introduce evidence of the victim’s own violent history, which could have changed the outcome of the case. After considering the defendant’s argument, the court affirmed the original convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two neighbors were talking outside of their homes one day when one of the individuals asked the other if he wanted a cigarette. The second individual, the victim in the case, said yes, and the first individual, the defendant, went inside to get the cigarette. The victim approached the defendant’s door and immediately heard yelling from inside the house.

The defendant came to the door, at which point he pulled out what looked like a gun. He pointed it in the victim’s direction and hit him in the head. The victim broke out of the defendant’s headlock and started moving away slowly.
Officers arrived at the scene and discovered that the defendant appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance. They brought him to the police station, and they charged him with two kinds of assault as well as disorderly conduct.

The Decision

The defendant’s case proceeded to trial. During the trial, the defendant tried to present evidence of the victim’s “violent history” to convince the jury that he was acting in self-defense. He stated that he had proof of previous bad acts that the victim had committed, and he thought this evidence would help his case. The trial court denied the defendant’s request to present this evidence, and the defendant was eventually found guilty.

On appeal, the defendant argued he should have been able to introduce evidence regarding the victim’s history. The court, however, saw things differently. According to the rules of criminal procedure, a defendant is very rarely allowed to introduce evidence regarding a victim’s prior bad acts. In addition, the defendant had failed to offer any substantial details about what evidence he wanted to admit, which precluded the trial court from being able to assess whether the evidence should have been able to come in.

With this in mind, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.

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