In a recent case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant asked the court to grant him a new trial after he received a guilty verdict. Originally, the defendant was charged with and convicted of aggravated assault. After his four-day trial, the defendant filed a motion for a new trial, but the lower court denied his motion. He promptly appealed, arguing that the trial court unfairly denied his request.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, two individuals were delivering food to a friend’s home one evening when the defendant abruptly approached and struck one of the individuals twice with a machete. After the attack, the defendant took off running. Officers searched for the defendant diligently, and they were eventually able to track him down and charge him with the crime.
In the meantime, the man who was attacked suffered severe injuries from the machete. He underwent surgery on his hand and his thigh, and he lost the ability to complete the physical aspects of his job. He also became dependent on others to help him use the bathroom, clean himself, and generally assist him in completing day-to-day tasks.
The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty of aggravated assault. Once the trial court denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial, he promptly appealed.
On appeal, the defendant took issue with one of the prosecutor’s witnesses during the trial. One of the witnesses to the attack knew the defendant and said on the stand that she knew the defendant had used a machete in the past. The defense attorney objected to this testimony, arguing she was not supposed to testify regarding the defendant’s previous bad acts.
The judge agreed that the testimony was inappropriate because it could unnecessarily sway the jury to think that the defendant was more likely to be guilty of the crime. The judge informed the jury they should ignore the testimony, though, and he kept the trial moving. In his appeal, the defendant argued that this testimony should be grounds for a totally new trial since the jury could not forget the prejudicial testimony they heard from the witness.
The court of appeals ultimately disagreed with the defendant. The trial judge took appropriate steps to make sure jury members knew not to use the inappropriate testimony in their analysis of the evidence. Specifically, he both told the prosecution to avoid similar evidence going forward, and he informed the jury that the evidence should not have been admitted in the first place. Given these proactive steps, the trial was not a lost cause, and the defendant’s motion was properly denied.
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