State v. Guthrie

194 W. Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995)

 

RULE:

The curative admissibility rule allows a party to present otherwise inadmissible evidence on an evidentiary point where an opponent has "opened the door" by introducing similarly inadmissible evidence on the same point. Under this rule, in order to be entitled as a matter of right to present rebutting evidence on an evidentiary fact: (a) The original evidence must be inadmissible and prejudicial, (b) the rebuttal evidence must be similarly inadmissible, and (c) the rebuttal evidence must be limited to the same evidentiary fact as the original inadmissible evidence.

FACTS:

Defendant, after being poked fun at by his co-worker, got upset and stabbed his co-worker in the neck and killed him. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison by jury verdict of the trial court. The defendant appealed and asserted cumulative error based on erroneous jury instructions and improper questions and comments made by the prosecution.  The appellate court reversed defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. It also established new definitions for premeditation and the sufficiency of evidence.

ISSUE:

Does the doctrine of curative admissibility apply to prejudicial statements made by the defendant about blacks, women, and Hitler for his conviction of first-degree murder?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The trial court erroneously admitted prejudicial statements allegedly made by defendant which led to the inference the he was racist, sexist, and a Nazi. The doctrine of curative admissibility did not apply because the statements had no relation to the crime. The prosecution's failure to disclose before cross-examination a statement allegedly made by defendant was also prejudicial and the cumulative error denied defendant his constitutional right to a fair trial. A new instruction defining premeditation for first-degree murder was adopted since there must be some evidence that defendant considered and weighed his decision to kill to establish premeditation.

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