State v. Hatcher

No. W2006-01853-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 690 (Crim. App. Aug. 29, 2008)



Graphic, gruesome, or even horrifying photographs of crime victims may be admitted into evidence if they are relevant to some issues at trial and probative value is not outweighed by their prejudicial effect. If they are not relevant to prove some part of the prosecution's case, they may not be admitted solely to inflame the jury and prejudice them against the defendant.


Defendant and his accomplices planned to gain access to the victim's apartment. Defendant went to the apartment armed and with the intent to kill the victim. Defendant's accomplice knocked on the door. Once defendant and his accomplices entered the apartment, shots were fired, the victim was killed, and two others were injured. The evidence of intent was sufficient to support defendant's convictions for first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, and two counts of criminal attempt to commit first degree murder. Defendant filed motions for new trial, and the trial court denied the motions. Defendant appealed the denial of his motions. In the interests of justice, the appellate court waived the timely filing of the notice of appeal, and later affirmed the judgments.


Did the trial court err in allowing photographs of the deceased into evidence because the photographs' prejudicial effect outweighed their probity?




The morgue picture showed only the victim's head and shoulders. The amount of blood shown in the photograph was minimal. The photograph of the victim at the crime scene was also not gory or gruesome. The photographs of the x-rays taken at the autopsy were definitely not prejudicial. They were used to show how the bullets entered particular parts of the victim's body. Accordingly, the pictures were relevant and that their probative value was not outweighed by their prejudicial effect.

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