Oregon Supreme Court, January 14, 2021
Summarized by Rankin Johnson, OCDLA
EVIDENCE - Doctrine of chances
Doctrine of chances is not exception to general prohibition on propensity evidence. Reversed.
The Supreme Court held that prior bad driving was not admissible to show that the bad driving leading to criminal charges had been intentional. The doctrine of chances, it explained, was only applicable when there were multiple events, all claimed to be accidents, and the proponent sought to prove that some of them were actually deliberate. It is not applicable when, as in this case, some of the uncharged events are clearly not accidental. In so holding, the court disavowed contrary reasoning in State v. Johns 301 Or 535 (1986).
The court emphasized the importance of determining the purpose of evidence before determining its admissibility.
State v. Skillicorn 367 Or 464 (January 14, 2021) (Duncan) (Washington County, Knapp)