State v. McKoy and Opening the Door

Suppose the defendant is on trial for murder.  He argues he shot the victim in self-defense.

The State elicits testimony from the victim’s father that the victim, who lived at home with his parents, was “always a happy guy.” The father states that he does not allow guns in his home and that, to his knowledge, the victim did not have a gun with him on the day he was shot or have a gun at any other time.

Counsel for the defendant then asks the father:  After your son died, did you see pictures on his cell phone of him with his friends holding guns?

The State objects. The defendant argues that, while the evidence would otherwise be inadmissible, the State opened the door to its admission.

How should the trial court rule?

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Street Names and Nicknames

Suppose that a murder defendant goes by the street name “Hit Man.” The prosecution wants the investigating officer to testify that she received a tip that “Hit Man” committed the crime, and that she knew that the defendant used the nickname “Hit Man.” Defense counsel moves to prohibit all references to the nickname during the … Read more

Applying Rule 403 in Child Pornography Cases

Rule 403 provides that “[a]lthough relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice . . . needless presentation of cumulative evidence,” or other factors. There’s considerable case law about the application of Rule 403 to photographs of homicide victims. A recent case from the Third … Read more


Repressed Memory Evidence

In State v. King, the N.C. Supreme Court recently clarified the rules regarding the admissibility of repressed memory evidence. In King the defendant was charged with sexually assaulting his daughter, a minor. When she was approximately 17 years old, the victim began suffering panic attacks and pseudoseizures, acting like a young child, speaking of a … Read more


Photographs of Homicide Victims

The State’s effort to introduce photographs of a homicide victim into evidence often is met with defense objections. One objection sometimes asserted is that the photographs are inadmissible as substantive evidence and must be limited to illustrative purposes. This objection likely will be overruled. As a general rule, photographs may be offered as substantive evidence … Read more


Rule 403: Old Chief and Stipulations to Prior Convictions

Some crimes, such as felon in possession of a firearm, include as an element that the defendant has a qualifying prior conviction. When this is the case, the defense may seek to limit the prejudicial effect of the prior conviction by offering to stipulate to its existence and asking the trial judge to preclude the … Read more


Relevancy: “Context,” “Circumstances,” and “Chain of Events” Evidence

In an earlier post, I wrote about relevancy and guilt of another. In this post, I consider another relevancy issue: context, circumstances, and chain of events evidence. Consider this problem: At the defendant’s murder trial, the State seeks to admit evidence that the defendant was doing drugs before the murder. To keep the facts clean, … Read more