RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
© John E. MacDonald
Victim’s Reputation for Violence
State v. Soto, 477 A.2d 945 (R.I. 1984). In a second-degree murder prosecution, a state witness’s knowledge of the victim’s reputation for violence was highly probative because self-defense was raised as an issue. R.I.S.C. reversed and remanded.
- “Evidence probative of the victim’s reputation for violence is highly relevant and admissible to show, among other things, that the victim was the aggressor in a case in which self-defense is raised.The defendant’s right, therefore, to elicit evidence regarding Gonzalez’s reputation for aggressive and violent behavior is beyond question.” Id. at 949.
- State’s witness was competent to give such testimony, as he knew the victim for nine years, spent time with his family, and lived next door.
State v. Garcia, 883 A.2d 1131 (R.I. 2005). On trial for murder, defendant claimed self-defense and sought to present testimony from a witness that knew the victim had committed robberies. The defendant asserted that the victim’s reputation for violent crime was relevant to who the aggressor was in the case. The trial judge precluded the testimony and R.I.S.C. affirmed.
- When self-defense is raised, evidence of the decedent’s reputation for violence is highly probative, but only admissible “to establish that defendant knew of the decedent’s violent tendencies and, as a result of that knowledge, had a reasonable fear of the victim that caused her to act in self-defense.” Id. at 1136. In this case, the defendant did not know of the decedent’s violent reputation at the time of the event.
- Evidence of victim’s reputation for violence is never admissible “to prove that the victim acted in conformity on a particular occasion or to establish that the victim was the aggressor.” Id.
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