In any criminal case, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime by establishing all of the particular elements of the crime as defined by Florida law. However, the state is not allowed to present irrelevant evidence or evidence that is highly prejudicial to the jury to attempt to prove its case. In a case involved a violent crime, that means that state cannot present evidence hat the defendant has a propensity for violence that is not otherwise specifically relevant to whether the defendant committed the crime for which he/she is on trial.
In a recent armed robbery case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with committing a robbery with a handgun. When the police went to arrest the defendant, they found four guns in his home. The defendant was not charged with any crime relating to those guns, and there was no evidence that any of the guns found in his home were used in the armed robbery. For some reason, at the armed robbery trial, the state had a police officer testify to the fact that they found four guns in his home when they arrested the defendant. Although it is unclear what those guns had to do with the armed robbery charge, the judge allowed the testimony.
The defendant was convicted of armed robbery, and the criminal defense lawyer appealed. The armed robbery conviction was reversed because the evidence of the guns was prejudicial to the defendant and had no relevance to the specific crime that was the basis for the trial. The state can present evidence to the jury that is prejudicial to the defendant. That is their job. However, the state cannot present evidence that is prejudicial to the defendant that is either irrelevant to the crime charged, as it was here, or so much more prejudicial to the defendant than it is relevant to the case that it is unfair. When this happens and the admitted evidence is considered harmful to the defendant’s case, the conviction should be reversed.