Impeachment

Professor Colin Miller uses an Alabama case to remind us that a prior misdemeanor conviction is not admissible under Rule 609(a).

Under this Rule, then, it is clear that a party cannot impeach a witness through evidence that the witness has a prior misdemeanor conviction for a crime not involving dishonesty or false statement. But does a witness open the door for such impeachment by testifying that he only completed the Eleventh grade if the reason that he did not complete his high school education was the conviction? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama in Beemon v. State, 2010 WL 4380238 (Ala.Crim.App. 2010), the answer is "no."

The prosecution had argued that the accused’s testimony had “opened the door.”  The appeals court also rejected that basis for admission.  Of interest though, for trial counsel, and for defense counsel to be looking out for, was this part of the court’s opinion.

the issue was blatantly interjected into the trial by the prosecution. The State cannot open the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence based upon its own line of examination….