People v. Knox, 2014 IL App (1st) 120349 (September).
Impeachment evidence prior conviction has to be within 10 years old to be admitted. What happens when the retrial is outside the 10 year window, but the first trial fell within the 10 years window?
Was it error to admit Defendant’s impeachment evidence prior conviction against him in his second trial for murder when it was admitted in the first trial?
Defendant was in an argument with victim that night and they fought. Defendant at a later time walks up to the car victim is in an shoots it up. Victim is hit 3 times and dies.
Defendant testified he thought victim was reaching for a gun so shot him first.
After Defendant rested, the state admitted Defendant’s certified convictions. Two of these convictions were in 1996 and one was in 1998. They were controlled substance with intent to deliver, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and possession of a controlled substance.
The trial was in 2010. Each fell outside the ten year limitation of admission per People v. Montgomery, 47 Ill. 2d 510 [(1971)] and People v. Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d 584 (2008).
This was Defendant’s second trial. The first trial was reversed because the trial judge did not rule on the motion to exclude his convictions until the day of trial. The first trial occurred within 10 years of Defendant’s convictions.
In criminal trials, a defendant’s criminal convictions are “generally inadmissible to demonstrate propensity to commit the charged crime.” People v. Donoho, 204 Ill. 2d 159, 170 (2003); see also People v. Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d 584, 594 (2008).
In certain circumstances, however, prior convictions may be admissible for impeachment purposes to attack a witness’ credibility. People v. Mullins, 242 Ill. 2d 1, 14 (2011); Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d at 594.
Impeachment Evidence Prior Conviction
In People v. Montgomery, 47 Ill. 2d 510 (1971), our supreme court set forth the factors to consider as to whether a prior conviction may be admitted for the express purpose of attacking the credibility of a defendant or other witness. A prior conviction may be admitted if:
(1) the crime was punishable by death or a term of imprisonment in excess of one year, or the crime involved dishonesty or false statements regardless of the punishment imposed;
(2) less than 10 years has elapsed since the date of conviction of the prior crime or release of the witness from confinement, whichever date is later; and
(3) the probative value of admitting the prior conviction outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice.
Montgomery, 47 Ill. 2d at 516; Mullins, 242 Ill. 2d at 14. See additional Illinois evidence provisions.
Ultimately, “the Montgomery rule limits the potential for abuse where the accused elects to take the witness stand, but it still makes prior convictions relevant to the issue of his credibility in part because ‘it would be unfair to permit the accused to appear as a witness of blameless life.’ ” People v. Medrano, 99 Ill. App. 3d 449, 451 (1981) (quoting Edward W. Cleary & Michael H. Graham, Handbook of Illinois Evidence § 609.1, at 284 (1979)).
The 10-year requirement is not a matter of discretion. Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d at 601; Mullins, 242 Ill. 2d at 15. Rather, the supreme court has specified that ” Montgomery’s 10-year time limit should be calculated in relation to the date of the defendant’s trial.” Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d at 602.
Fundamental Fairness Doctrine
However, where there is evidence that a defendant is drawing out legal proceedings, the court held that “the running of the 10-year time limit could be tolled on the ground that a defendant’s ‘effort to manipulate the judicial system negates the positive inference supposedly to be drawn from ten years of law abiding behavior.’ ” Naylor, 229 Ill. 2d at 601.
Another exception to Montgomery’s 10-year rule was established in People v. Reddick, 123 Ill. 2d 184 (1988). The doctrine is explained this way
“If the evidence should have been admitted previously, then it must be admitted on retrial. [The witness] will likely be attempting to track his prior testimony, and fundamental fairness dictates that defendant be allowed to impeach him in the same manner that defendant should have been permitted to impeach him in the initial trial.”
Reddick, 123 Ill. 2d at 203.
The fundamental fairness doctrine set forth in Reddick has since been employed by courts to permit the admission of a defendant’s prior convictions for impeachment purposes during subsequent legal proceedings as long as the defendant’s convictions occurred within 10 years of the initial proceeding. See People v. Jackson, 299 Ill. App. 3d 104, 113 (1998).
The court accurately applied the fundamental fairness doctrine in admitting the prior convictions for impeachment.