- United States
Carroll was convicted by a jury of
Carroll argues that evidence from
his prior conviction was improperly admitted.
10 years prior, Carroll was
convicted of armed robbery.
Sought to introduce evidence of his
prior conviction under rule 404(b).
To prove plan, knowledge or
Determined that prior conviction was
admissible for purposes of showing a plan or pattern and
When Prior Bad Acts Can show a Plan or Pattern
When a Df - prior bad acts are part
of a broader plan or scheme to the charge offense.
EX: When a criminal steals a car to
use it to use it in a robbery. The intrinsic evidence merely
shows the full context of the crime.
Where the pattern and
characteristics of the crimes are so unusual and distinctive as
to be like a signature, evidence of a defendant's prior crimes
is admissible to prove that it was indeed the defendant that
committed the charged crime.
In these cases, the evidence goes to
- Rejected Carrolls 10-year old conviction
Victims were different
Events were far apart.
District Court - Admitted to show identity.
- Unique set of signature facts, Prior conviction would be
If the conduct underlying Carroll's
prior conviction and his current charged offense both involved a
unique set of "signature facts," then his prior conviction would
be admissible to show that the same person committed both
Rule 404(b) Prohibits this evidence,
Unless the robberies are
"sufficiently idiosyncratic" to make them "clearly distinctive
from the thousands of other bank robberies committed each year,"
evidence of the prior crime is "nothing more than the character
evidence that Rule 404(b) prohibits.
Court Threshold Determination
The District Court must determine if
a reasonable jury could conclude that the same person committed
both crimes based on comparing the past acts and the charged
Modus Operandi Plan or Pattern Factors Signature Facts
The distinctiveness of the facts
that make the crimes unique.
The proximity of the crimes in space
Characteristic Shared by two robberies
Method of Robbery
There robberies are too common to
form a modus operand that uniquely identify Carroll as the
There needs to be a frame of
reference the measures the uniqueness of the crime.
The signature facts relied upon the
government are frequent in bank robberies.
Nylon stocking mask, carried a gun,
and vaulted over the counter.
- Geographic Closeness of the robberies
Both are financial institutions.
Both are located in the same city of
However, they occurred 10 years
Based on the (1) generic nature of
the crimes and (2) on the ten years that passed between them, we
conclude that the prior conviction
was not relevant to prove
identity through modus operandi because no
substantial inference of identity reasonably could be made.
Our criminal justice system has long
forbidden juries from convicting an individual, not for facts
which prove the charged offense, but for prior acts that, at
best, show a criminal propensity.
It was therefore an abuse of
discretion to admit evidence of the prior bank robbery committed
by Carroll, for that robbery is not relevant to any question
other than Carroll's propensity to rob banks