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April 18, 2019

Evidence of Acquitted Conduct

Case: State v. Steve M. Jarman
Facts: Defendant was charged with first degree murder and convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Defendant challenged, among other things, that the court improperly admitted evidence of an alleged 2013 assault where the Defendant had been acquitted.

Appellate Decision: The intermediate court agreed with Defendant and reversed the conviction, citing that an acquittal renders an allegation less than “clear and convincing” such that the alleged incident is barred by Rule 404(b). State v. Holman, 611 S.W.2d 411, 413 (Tenn. 1981). The court observed that the Tennessee Supreme Court has noted the Holman holding represents the minority rule among states but has not overturned that precedent. A concurring opinion addressed a different issue and contended that “adequate provocation” is not strictly an essential element of manslaughter that the State must prove, but is instead a “built-in mitigation to a knowing or intentional killing.”

Review Granted: March 27, 2019.

Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court is likely to reverse and overrule Holman, since an allegation could fall within the gap of “clear and convincing” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, a jury should be told that the defendant had been acquitted of the act. David agrees: the Tennessee Supreme Court has recently been overruling dated precedent not in harmony with majority rules in the country.