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Name: People v. Johnson
Case #: A123469
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/09/2010

Under Evidence Code section 1109, subdivision (e), evidence of propensity conduct occurring more than ten years prior to the instant offense is presumptively inadmissable and is to be allowed only on a finding of interest of justice by the trial court. Appellant and the victim were long time friends before they became romantically involved and moved in together. After a period of time, the relationship deteriorated and the victim left appellant because of his drug abuse and threats against her. Appellant came to her place of employment, saying he wanted to pick up some of his property. When she turned her back to him, he shot her, severely injuring her. At trial, following an evidentiary hearing, the court granted the prosecution’s motion to introduce evidence of appellant’s commission of two prior domestic violence acts, occurring more than ten years prior to the instant offense. Following conviction and imposition of sentence of 60-years-to-life, appellant appealed, arguing that introduction of past conduct was an abuse of discretion. The appellate court disagreed. Although subdivision (e) of section 1109 creates a presumption of inadmissibility of remote priors, here, the court met the higher standard of “interests of justice” in permitting the evidence. As with the instant case, in each of the two prior cases, appellant resorted to shooting his girlfriend when she decided to break up with him; drug use was a factor in each incident; serious injury was inflicted on both victims. Further, appellant was convicted of both priors so was not faced with having to mount a defense to the prior; the past conduct was less egregious and inflammatory than the instant case; and, although the evidence was damaging, it was not prejudicial. The trial court met the “interest of justice” exception by engaging in the requisite section 352 balancing and concluding that this evidence was more probative than prejudicial. The evidence also did not result in a denial of due process, courts of appeal having previously followed the reasoning of People v. Falsetta (1999) 21 Cal.4th 903, in holding that section 1109 does not offend due process.