If you were on a jury, would you be more likely to find someone
guilty if you knew he or she had already been convicted before for
Just how “prejudicial” such information would be to a jury was
the subject of a state supreme court decision issued last week on a
case that originated in Kitsap County.
Here’s the long story short: Johnathon Roswell, who had previous
convictions for third-degree rape and third-degree child
molestation, was charged in 2005 with new sex offenses, including
“Communication with a minor for immoral purposes,” after police
alleged he’d propositioned some 16-year-old girls at a park,
the supreme court said.
Here’s why the state supreme court took issue: If a defendant
has been convicted of a prior sex crime, a conviction for the gross
misdemeanor of “communication
with a minor for immoral purposes,” becomes a felony.
That means the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the
defendant has the criminal history, meaning they need to
know at least what said history is. And normally, juries
must stick to the facts of the current case out of our courts’ fear
they’ll be prejudiced into convicting by virtue of the fact the
defendant has done it before.
There are other crimes where juries must consider a defendant’s
previous criminal history. Any guesses of what they are?
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