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University of Michigan Law School

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

2015

Litigation

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Blackness As Character Evidence, Mikah K. Thompson Sep 2015

Blackness As Character Evidence, Mikah K. Thompson

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

Federal Rule of Evidence 404 severely limits the government’s ability to offer evidence of a defendant’s character trait of violence to prove action in conformity with that trait on the occasion in question. The Rule states that such character evidence is generally inadmissible when offered to prove propensity. The Rule also allows the government to offer evidence of an alleged victim’s character for peacefulness in homicide cases where the defendant asserts the self-defense privilege. Although criminal defendants may offer character evidence under limited circumstances, Rule 404 creates a significant disincentive for doing so. Where a defendant offers evidence of an …