Extraneous Evidence Appropriate to Prove Motive or Counter Defense

Conviction Upheld & Defendant to Serve 27 Years

When a person commits a crime and his defense is countered by extraneous evidence, like evidence of insurance fraud, the convicted person cannot complain about the use of the extraneous evidence.

In Brandon Deshawn Williams v. The State Of Texas, NO. 01-16-00794-CR, Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas (July 12, 2018) Brandon Deshawn Williams was found guilty of the offense of aggravated robbery and assessed his punishment at confinement for twenty-seven years. Williams claimed the trial court erred in admitting certain extraneous-offense evidence.

Background

Criswan Jones, the complainant, testified that on the night of August 20, 2015, he noticed two men at his apartment complex. As the complainant walked past the men toward his apartment, the smaller man, who the complainant identified as appellant at trial, pointed a firearm at him and demanded his car keys. When the complainant handed appellant his car keys, appellant also grabbed the cellular telephone from the complainant’s pocket. At the same time, the “bigger” man took the cellular telephone of the complainant’s girlfriend. Both of the men then got into the complainant’s car and drove away. The complainant and his girlfriend went to a neighbor’s apartment and called for emergency assistance.

Later that evening, the complainant went to another location where law enforcement officers had detained two suspects. There, he identified appellant as the person who took his car keys while pointing a firearm at him. The complainant testified that he was certain of his identification of appellant.

Leroy Chevalier testified that he was with appellant on the night of August 20, 2015. Before the incident with the complainant, he and appellant had taken appellant’s car to “scope out” a person that they had planned “to rob.”  Chevalier shot back with his firearm while appellant drove his car.

At the apartment complex, Chevalier and appellant telephoned family and friends, searching for a ride because appellant’s car was not drivable at that point. They then saw the complainant as he was leaving and asked him for the address of the apartment complex. As the complainant walked by, appellant held a firearm “to his head” and took “his car keys [and everything else he had] . . . basically robbing him.”

At the same time, Chevalier grabbed the woman’s cellular telephone and threw it away from her to prevent her from calling anyone. He and appellant then got into the complainant’s car and drove away. However, they were quickly stopped by law enforcement officers.

Although appellant initially stopped the car, he “sped off” as the law enforcement officers exited their patrol car and began to approach. A few blocks later, Chevalier and appellant abandoned the complainant’s car and ran “on foot” into a residential neighborhood. They eventually hid in an empty van in the backyard of a private residence.

Law enforcement officers located Chevalier and appellant with the assistance of a service dog.  At trial, Chevalier also identified appellant as the same person who had taken the complainant’s car keys while pointing a firearm at him.

Although Huckabee attempted to chase the two men, he was not able to catch them. He called in other units to set up a perimeter and a canine unit to track the scent of the two men. Ultimately, the dog traced the driver and the passenger to a van in a private resident’s yard.

Appellant eventually surrendered and was taken into custody. Huckabee then took appellant and the other man back to the location where they had abandoned the stolen car. And the complainant positively identified appellant as the person who had taken his car keys while pointing a firearm at him.

Extraneous-Offense Evidence

Appellant argued that the trial court erred by permitting the jury to hear evidence that appellant engaged in an extraneous aggravated assault with a deadly weapon prior to the aggravated robbery for which appellant was found guilty because the probative value of this extraneous offense is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

The admission of extraneous offenses to prove a person’s character or to show that the person acted in conformity with that character is prohibited. Evidence of extraneous offenses may, however, be admissible to show “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.” And evidence of extraneous acts may also be admissible to rebut defensive theories.

In this case, appellant’s entire defense was premised on mistaken identity. Then, Chevalier’s testimony that he was with appellant before, during, and after the robbery was relevant to rebut appellant’s defensive theory of mistaken identity.

Similarly, Chevalier’s testimony was admissible to establish appellant’s state of mind or motive in stealing the complainant’s car. He testified that at the time of the robbery, appellant’s car was not drivable due to damages it sustained in the shootout from earlier in the evening. Evidence linking car to homicide admissible where State used it to explain one of defendant’s motives for the insurance fraud.

Finally, Chevalier’s testimony regarding the extraneous-offense evidence did not consume so much time that it would have confused the jury as only approximately ten pages, of the one hundred and twenty-three pages of testimony in the record, concerned the extraneous offense.

Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the probative value of the extraneous-offense evidence was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

ZALMA OPINION

Crime, whether robbery or insurance fraud, can be proved by the use of extraneous evidence under certain limited circumstances. Williams was a violent criminal who used a firearm in multiple criminal acts in one evening. He was convicted and tried to avoid the conviction by claiming he was unfairly prejudiced by the admission of extraneous evidence of other crimes. His conviction was clearly based upon admissible evidence and his time in jail will be served.


© 2018 – Barry Zalma

This article, and all of the blog posts on this site, digest and summarize cases published by courts of the various states and the United States.  The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, were condensed for ease of reading, and convey the opinions of the author regarding each case.

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant  specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 50 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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