United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on Defendant Ida Mae Sam's
Motion in Limine Excluding Evidence of Defendant's Prior
Convictions or Bad Acts [Doc. No. 43].
Having considered the motion, the Government's response
[Doc. No. 44');">44], and applicable statutory and case law, and
being otherwise fully informed in the premises, the Court
finds as follows:
Government charged Sam with (1) one count of assault with a
dangerous weapon under 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3), and (2)
one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury under
18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(6) [Doc. No. 1]. The indictment
alleges Sam assaulted a fellow Choctaw Indian on the Pearl
River Community of the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Neshoba
County, Mississippi [Doc. No. 1].
case was originally tried on August 28-29, 2017. The Court
declared a mistrial on August 29, 2017 after the jury failed
to reach a verdict [Minute Entry of 8/29/17]. This case is
set for re-trial on October 30, 2017.
trial approaching, Sam moves to exclude evidence of her prior
convictions or bad acts under Federal Rules of Evidence 403
and 404(b) [Doc. No. 43]. Sam fails to pinpoint any prior
conviction or bad act; instead, she advances the legal
conclusion “that any prior bad acts on which the
Government may rely simply are not admissible under Rule
404(b)” [Doc. No. 43, p. 2');">p. 2].
Government does not intend to use any of Sam's prior bad
acts or convictions in its case-in-chief [Doc. No. 44');">44, p. 1].
Yet the Government “reserves the right” to use
five convictions or bad acts: (1) a 2005 conviction for
assault with a deadly weapon; (2) a 2015 assault with a
baseball bat; (3) a 2016 tribal court conviction for
battery/domestic; (4) a 2017 aggravated assault with a beer
bottle; and (5) evidence of threats to harm a potential
witness [Doc. No. 44');">44, pp. 1-2].
bad acts or convictions are inadmissible to prove a
person's bad character. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b); United
States v. Wallace, 759 F.3d 486, 493 (5th Cir. 2014).
But they may be admitted for another purpose if (1) the prior
bad act is relevant to an issue other than the
defendant's character; and (2) its probative value is not
substantially outweighed by its undue prejudice under Rule
403. United States v. Jones, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 WL
4564238, *9 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing United States v.
Beechum, 582 F.2d 898, 911 (5th Cir. 1978) (en banc)).
relevance of a prior bad act or conviction “is a
function of its similarity to the offense charged.”
Beechum, 582 F.2d at 911. For example, a
defendant's prior conviction is relevant to the
defendant's intent to commit the charged offense if the
prior conviction required proof of the same culpable mental
state as the charged offense. See, e.g., Smith, 804
F.3d at 736. The reasoning is “the defendant had
unlawful intent in the extrinsic offense, ” therefore
“it is less likely that he had lawful intent in the
present offense.” Id. at 911.
assessing relevance, the Court shifts its focus to the
familiar Rule 403 analysis. To determine if the probative
value of the prior conviction or other bad act substantially
outweighs its prejudicial effect, the Court considers
“(1) the Government's need for the extrinsic
evidence; (2) the similarity between the extrinsic and
charged offenses; (3) the amount of time separating the two
offenses; and (4) the Court's limiting
instructions.” United States v. Smith, 804
F.3d 724, 736 n. 50 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks
omitted). In the Rule 404(b) context, the Rule 403 factors
guard against a jury's tendency to convict a defendant
for an extrinsic offense, rather than the one for which she
stands trial. See Beechum, 582 F.2d at 914.
the Government disclaims any intention of using Sam's
prior convictions or other bad acts in its case-in-chief, the
Court addresses the admissibility of each in turn.
2005 Conviction - Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Government “reserved the right” to offer evidence
of Sam's 2005 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon
[Doc. No. 44');">44, p. 1]. Sam's 2005 assault conviction is
inadmissible unless (1) is relevant to an issue other than
Sam's character; and (2) its probative value