Section 23.14 Motive

LibraryCriminal Practice 2012 Supp

2. (§23.14) Motive

Motive is relevant as circumstantial evidence of guilt. State v. Snider, 869 S.W.2d 188, 193–94 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993). When the defendant maintains innocence, evidence of motive or absence of motive is relevant. State v. Hill, 866 S.W.2d 160, 163–64 (Mo. App. S.D. 1993). Trial courts have great latitude in admitting evidence as to the defendant’s motive. State v. Blackman, 875 S.W.2d 122, 139–140 (Mo. App. E.D. 1994); State v. Ottwell, 852 S.W.2d 370, 373 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993). Thus, the state can develop motive even though it involves evidence of other crimes. Id.; State v. Mallett, 732 S.W.2d 527, 534 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 933 (1987). Evidence of motive has been allowed to discredit a claim of self-defense. State v. DeWeese, 751 S.W.2d 389, 393 (Mo. App. E.D. 1988).

Evidence of the defendant’s racial prejudice is admissible when it may supply possible motive for the defendant’s actions. State v. Henke, 954 S.W.2d 685, 687 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997); State v. Coutee, 879 S.W.2d 762, 767 (Mo. App. S.D. 1994); State v. Novak, 949 S.W.2d 168, 171 (Mo. App. E.D. 1997); but see Dawson v. Del., 503 U.S. 159 (1992) (constitutional error to admit the defendant’s membership in a white racist prison gang when that evidence was not relevant to any issue being decided in the punishment phase of a capital murder case and when the evidence was not tied in any way to the murder).

Evidence that the murder victim had sought an ex parte order of protection against the defendant is relevant to explain the defendant’s motive for murder. State v. Nastasio, 957 S.W.2d 454, 459 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997).

Even if motive is relevant, it still must be shown by competent evidence, and thus otherwise inadmissible hearsay cannot be admitted under the state-of-mind exception as direct evidence of a defendant’s state of mind or a true...

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