Facts: Petitioner Louis DeVincentis was convicted in the Superior Court for King County of rape and child molestation after evidence had been introduced at his trial of previous convictions in New York predicated upon substantially similar behavior that demonstrated a common scheme or plan. DeVincentis appealed his conviction to the Washington Court of Appeals, asserting that although his previous behavior was similar to the crime with which he had been charged, it was not unique or uncommon and therefore not admissible. The Court of Appeals affirmed DeVincentis’s conviction and DeVincentis appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Does Washington Court Rules Annotated §404(b) require uniqueness in order to admit evidence of prior behavior intended to demonstrate a common scheme or plan?
Conclusion: Justice Charles W. Johnson’s opinion for the Court held that a defendant’s prior behavior need only be sufficiently similar to the charged crime in order to be admissible and need not be unique or uncommon to the way the crime is typically committed. The Court concluded that while uniqueness or uncommonness may be probative to establishing a modus operandi used to prove the identity of the perpetrator, the modus operandi exception to the general exclusion of evidence of prior acts is not the only such exception as evidence of substantially similar yet non-unique prior acts may be probative to establishing a common scheme or plan of which the charged crime is an individual manifestation.
Docket No. 72819-4
Petitioner: Louis DeVincentis
(Counsel: Suzanne L. Elliott and James M. Roe)
Respondent: State of Washington
(Counsel: Norm Maleng, James M. Whisman, and Heather M. Jensen)
Argument: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 10:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, August 14th, 2003
Prevailing Party: State of Washington (Respondent)
Opinion: 150 Wn.2d 11 (2003)
Court: Alexander2 Court (2003-2004)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form.