Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of a prior crime the defendant and codefendant committed together to show defendant’s knowledge of his codefendant’s violent propensities. Felix got into an argument with several employees at a bar. As the employees were leaving work that night, Felix and his codefendant Jones confronted the employees and a fight ensued in which Jones stabbed one of the employees. Felix was prosecuted under two theories of attempted murder: straight aiding and abetting, and aiding and abetting under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. He was convicted of attempted murder and other offenses. On appeal Felix argued the trial court erred in admitting evidence of a 1994 armed robbery he committed with Jones as it was remote in time and dissimilar to the present crime. Held: Affirmed. Evidence that a defendant committed a prior crime is admissible when it is relevant to prove a fact other than the person’s propensity to commit an act, such as knowledge, motive, intent, plan, etc. (Evid. Code, § 1101, subd. (b)). Admissibility depends on the materiality of the evidence, the tendency of the evidence to prove those facts, and the existence of any policy (i.e., Evid. Code, § 352) requiring exclusion of the evidence. Here, the attempted murder charge was based on theories of direct aider and abettor and natural and probable consequences. The prosecution had to prove either that Felix knew Jones intended to kill or that a reasonable person in his position would know that Jones’s attempted murder was a natural and probable consequence of an assault. In both criminal acts, Jones, while in the presence of Felix, threatened and assaulted the victims with a weapon. This tended to show that Felix knew it was likely Jones would use violence in this incident. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted this evidence for the limited purpose of establishing Felix’s knowledge at the time of the crime. Even if the trial court did abuse its discretion, any error was harmless.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/C079382.PDF