In a recent criminal case near Jacksonville, Florida where the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation for allegedly showing his penis to a 5 year old and enticing her to touch it, the state’s conviction of the defendant was reversed because the state improperly introduced evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use. Apparently, the victim’s dad and the defendant used to smoke marijuana together in the same house where the alleged lewd or lascivious molestation occurred, and this testimony came out at the trial when the prosecutor was questioning the victim’s dad. The defendant was not charged with possession of marijuana; he was only charged with the sex crime.
The jury convicted the defendant of lewd or lascivious molestation, but the conviction was reversed on appeal. The evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use was not relevant to the case and whether the defendant committed lewd or lascivious molestation. Evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use was considered impermissible character evidence and should not have been heard by the jury. In other words, the purpose of that testimony was to attack the defendant’s character because whether the defendant had used marijuana in the past had nothing to do with whether he committed the sex crime for which he was charged. Sometimes when there is an error in a trial, a conviction is not necessarily reversed if the error is considered harmless, i.e. the mistake did not appear to affect the jury’s guilty verdict. However, when the jury hears of other crimes committed by the defendant that have nothing to do with the crime that is the basis of the trial, this will almost always result in a conviction being reversed.