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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 147985 Find in a Library
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:83  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1993)  Pages:894-919
Author(s): D J Doyle
Date Published: 1993
Page Count: 26
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This Note examines the admission of evidence of prior injuries to an abused child even though those injuries could not be attributed to the defendant.
Abstract: In Estelle v. McGuire, the United States Supreme Court held that a State court's admission of evidence of prior injuries to an abused child was constitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court found that this evidence was relevant to prove battered child syndrome, a medical diagnosis which uses proof of past injuries to show that a child's present injuries did not occur accidentally. This Note argues that the Court, by failing to clearly distinguish between the prior injury evidence and the battered child syndrome diagnosis, provided a misleading and simplistic analysis of the evidentiary questions presented. Further, it argues that the prior injury evidence was wrongly used to prove intent because it was not linked to the defendant in a meaningful way and its probative value was substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The jury instruction on the prior injury evidence allowed the jury to misuse that evidence, rendering the trial fundamentally unfair. Finally, this Note suggests that the Court's decision reflects a result-oriented approach to evidentiary questions that poses a dangerous threat to the time-honored prohibition against character evidence. Footnotes
Main Term(s): Victims of Crime
Index Term(s): Courts; Criminal law
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