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A Better Partnership
December 26, 2014

MSC to consider whether testimony about pastor defendant’s prior sexual relationships with adult parishioners was properly admitted as res gestae evidence in CSC trial

In People v. Jackson, No. 149798, the Michigan Supreme Court will consider whether the trial court properly admitted testimony about the defendant’s prior sexual relationship with former members of his congregation.  The testimony, which was admitted during the defendant’s trial for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, was unspecific and concerned two relationships where both parties were above the age of consent.  The victim of this offense, however, was 13 years old.  The Court of Appeals held the testimony inadmissible under 404(b), but admissible as res gestae evidence.
The defendant was convicted of six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old member of his congregation. At trial, the court admitted testimony from a woman regarding the defendant’s prior sexual relationship with herself and another woman. The Court of Appeals held that the testimony was admissible under the res gestae principle to explain why the woman asked the victim whether she had been inappropriately touched by the defendant. Although the evidence would be inadmissible to show the defendant’s propensity for wrongdoing under MRE 404(b), it was admissible under the res gestae principle for another purpose.
The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the parties to brief (1) whether the challenged testimony was admissible res gestae evidence; (2) if so, whether the prosecutor was required to provide notice pursuant to MRE 404(b)(2); and (3) whether, if notice was required, the failure to provide notice was reversible error.

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