The Tennessee Court of Appeals decided State v. Alvertis Boyd on July 1. The Defendant, Boyd, was convicted by a jury of aggravated robbery. Boyd brought several issues up on appeal including, in particular, the argument that the prosecution violated Rule 609(a)(3) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Rule 609(a)(3) allows for the admission of a prior conviction to impeach the credibility of a defendant testifying at trial. The impeaching conviction must be either "punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of 1 year under the law under which the witness was convicted" or "must have involved dishonesty or a false statement." When deciding whether to admit a prior conviction for impeachment purposes, the Court must first determine if the prior conviction is relevant to the defendant's credibility. Second, if the prior conviction is substantially similar to the crime for which the defendant is being tried, the court must weigh the probative value of the impeachment conviction against the prejudicial effect the conviction would have on the defendant. If the probative value of the impeachment conviction outweighs the prejudicial effect, trial courts may admit the prior conviction during trial.
At trial, the prosecution used Boyd's prior convictions of aggravated robbery and theft to impeach him. Boyd argued that since one of the prior convictions was the same offense for which he was on trial, the jury believed that because he was previously convicted of aggravated robbery, he must be guilty on this offense. The Court of Appeals disagreed and held that the convictions of aggravated robbery and theft were extremely probative of credibility because each of the crimes involved dishonesty. Because there was no evidence that the trial court abused its discretion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.