The law states that a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty of an alleged crime. However, when a Michigan resident is facing criminal charges, the court of public opinion is often quick to cast judgment. This is particularly true if the defendant has a previous criminal record.
One Kalamazoo man may need to start preparing his defense after his mother was found dead on Christmas day in her home. According to a news report, some neighbors have claimed the man got into a fight with his mother and beat her to death. A few days before his mother's body was discovered, the man was arrested for domestic violence arising out of a separate incident. The man's criminal record shows prior run-ins with the law, including charges of breaking and entering.
The man has not been charged in connection with his mother's death. Kalamazoo Township Police say they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Some individuals point to the accused individual's history of drug use and other criminal offenses as indications that he is likely responsible for this horrific offense. Fortunately for the accused, the news media and neighborhood gossip don't make legal decisions.
The Rules of Evidence provide that an individual's prior criminal history is not admissible as character evidence to prove the defendant acted in conformity with that character. Evidence of prior criminal acts can be admitted for other purposes, such as to show opportunity, intent or motive. Even if the accused in this case is found to have a history of domestic violence, the prosecution will have to show a legitimate reason for introducing the evidence.
Individuals who may have previous arrests or convictions for violent crimes on their records can be unfairly treated by the public. When a person is facing new allegations in front of a judge and jury, though, the law places limits on how evidence of prior bad acts can be used.
Source: WWMT, "Kalamazoo woman found dead on Christmas; son in jail," Jan. 2, 2017