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Gang Evidence and Premeditation

January 22, 2021

Gang Evidence and Premeditation

Case:   State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Reynolds

Facts:   Defendant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. Over the defense’s objection, the State introduced evidence of gang affiliation “for the purposes of establishing the Defendant’s identity and completing the story.”

Appellate Decision:   The intermediate court first held there was no evidence of premeditation. Although the evidence circumstantially linked the Defendant to the shooting, and the State need not prove motive, premeditation could not be inferred from the facts the victim was shot multiple times, the defendant was armed, or that the defendant had potentially attempted to rob the victim.

Second, the court held that too much extraneous gang evidence was admitted. Although the general fact of the Defendant’s gang membership was relevant to connecting him to another person and the murder weapon, there was an overly prejudicial effect from “the extensive background information” and “the manner in which the gang evidence was argued.”

Combining these rulings, the court remanded for a new trial on second degree murder.

Review Granted:   November 16, 2020.

Prediction:   Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm the intermediate court decision for the reasons stated in the opinion. David disagrees and thinks the case may be remanded on first degree murder (rather than second degree murder).