Commonwealth v. Green

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the defendant’s first-degree murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The Commonwealth charged the defendant with homicide, alleging he killed a man’s grandmother in retaliation for stealing the defendant’s chain. The Commonwealth filed a Pre-Trial Motion in which it sought to introduce prior bad acts evidence pursuant to Pa.R.E. 404(b). The Commonwealth sought to present evidence regarding an incident that took place 14 months before the murder. The Commonwealth argued, during that incident, the defendant had a physical altercation over a drug dispute with an individual, and in retaliation, shot at the house of the person’s grandmother. However, no arrests were made, and no charges were filed. The Commonwealth alleged that the defendant committed the act, and the incident showed he had a common scheme or plan of retribution against the grandmothers of his protagonists. The trial court granted the motion, and a jury found the defendant guilty of murder. The Superior Court reversed. The Court found that the record did not support the trial court’s determination that the 404(b) evidence demonstrated a common scheme, plan, or design because the incidents are distinguishable in several significant ways. The Court held that the 404(b) evidence was more prejudicial than probative and was offered for propensity purposes.

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