Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This is the California Supreme Court writing in People v. Karis (1968) 46 Cal.3d 612, 672:

“Evidence of a defendant's statement regarding possible future criminal conduct in a hypothetical situation has at least as great a potential for prejudice in suggesting a propensity to commit crime as evidence of other crimes. Therefore, the content of and circumstances in which such statements are made must be carefully examined both in determining whether the statements fall within the state-of-mind exception, as circumstantial evidence that defendant acted in accordance with his stated intent, and in assessing whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs that potential prejudicial effect.

Although once again the specific hearsay exception under which the evidence was admitted was not an issue in the case, People v. Rodriguez (1986) 42 Cal.3d 730, 757, 230 Cal.Rptr. 667, 726 P.2d 113, is instructive with regard to the admissibility of “generic” threats. We stated there: “A defendant's threat against the victim ... is relevant to prove intent in a *637 prosecution for murder. ( People v. Lew (1968) 68 Cal.2d 774, 778, 69 Cal.Rptr. 102, 441 P.2d 942.) The statements here in question did not specify a victim or victims but were aimed at any police officer who would attempt to arrest appellant. Such a generic threat is admissible to show the defendant's homicidal intent where other evidence brings the actual victim within the scope of the threat. [Citations.] Hence the statements were relevant and not excludable under Evidence Code section 1101.”

The same reasoning leads to a conclusion that statements of intent of this nature, reflecting intent to kill a particular category of victims in specific circumstances, fall within the state-of-mind exception to the hearsay rule. (Evid.Code, § 1250.) The evidence is therefore admissible unless the circumstances in which the statements were made, the lapse of time, or other evidence suggests that the state of mind was transitory and no longer existed at the time of the charged offense."

Several points:

1. The statement by Spector a decade before Lana Clarkson died was not a statement of intent to kill anyone.

2. It did not relate to a specific class of persons under specific circumstances.

3. But the "all women are C-words who deserve a bullet in their heads" comment was highly prejudicial.