In the case of People v Bynum, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court on July 11, 2014, the Court decided that a police officer who was an expert witness on gang related issues could only testify as to gangs and gang culture. The police officers testimony connecting Bynum to the crime was inappropriate propensity evidence. Michigan Rules of Evidence prohibit testimony that is specifically used to prove that on a particular occasion, a gang member acted in conformity with character traits commonly associated with gang members.
At the trial court, the defense attorney put a general objection to the testimony. The trial judge allowed it concluding it was relevant to prove motive. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed Bynum’s conviction determining the testimony was inappropriate. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed
Expert testimony is admissible if it is intended to assist a jury to understand evidence. If the evidence is within the grasp of a reasonable person this evidence is not admissible. The purpose is to educate a jury – and not to present testimony that a person acted in a particular manner which would imply guilt. This decision is critically important because the use of police as alleged “experts” in gang, gun and drug crimes is widely misused by prosecutors at the consent of uninformed or uncaring judges. Defense attorneys have become so accustomed to being overruled on this and other issues than may don’t even bother to object at trial which deprives their client of a fair defense.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys – Using the Rules of Evidence to Fight for You
The fear of a tough prosecutor or a prosecution friendly judge never dissuades an attorney with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. from fighting for their client. Evidence issues can be highly complex and many criminal defense lawyers do not understand they sufficiently enough to protect their client at trial. It is extremely important that you have someone extremely knowledgeable in the Constitution and the Rules of Evidence by your side throughout trial to protect you against prosecutors who are only interested in getting you convicted and from judges who regularly turn a blind eye to due process. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are at their best when standing between you and the government. They are aggressive, knowledgeable and vastly experienced in criminal law and evidence. If you are facing criminal charges, please contact us at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and one of our criminal defense lawyers will contact you promptly.
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LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.