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149798 - People v Jackson (Timothy)

The People of the State of Michigan,
David A. McCreedy
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Wayne – Callahan, J.)
Timothy Ward Jackson,
Lisa B. Kirsch-Satawa


Defendant Timothy Ward Jackson, pastor of the Outreach Cathedral of Faith AOH Church of God, was convicted of six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving the daughter of his assistant pastor.  The victim first reported the abuse to her aunt, Jacklyn Price.  Price had observed that the victim was spending a lot of time with Jackson.  Price testified that she wanted to determine if Jackson had touched the victim in a sexual manner.  So Price initiated the conversation by telling the victim about a woman who had been involved in a relationship with Jackson.  She also insinuated that she was involved in a prior relationship.  Price then asked the victim to tell an adult if anyone had been touching her inappropriately.  The victim began to cry and told Price about her sexual interactions with Jackson.  Jackson denied engaging in any sexual conduct with the victim, but the jury convicted him as charged.
On appeal, Jackson complained that Price’s testimony amounted to improper character evidence, admitted in violation of MRE 404(b) and without proper notice.  MRE 404(b) states that “[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person,” but may be admissible for “other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, . . . knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake . . . .”  Before the trial begins, the prosecutor is required to provide notice to the defendant of the general nature of any such evidence, and the purpose for which it will be admitted.  In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals panel ruled that, although Price’s testimony did “arguably refer to prior acts” by Jackson and was the type of evidence contemplated by MRE 404(b), it was nevertheless admissible as “res gestae” evidence.  “Under the res gestae principle, parties may elicit testimony that is necessary to allow the jury to hear the ‘complete story,’ even if that testimony incidentally describes the commission of another crime or wrong.”  Without Price’s explanation of why she decided to ask the victim whether she had been inappropriately touched, the jury would have been confused by the rest of Price’s testimony, the Court of Appeals held.  Two Court of Appeals judges further agreed that, because the challenged portions of Price’s testimony were admissible under the res gestae exception, the prosecution was not required to provide notice of its intent to present the evidence under MRE 404(b).  The third Court of Appeals judge concluded that the prosecutor was required to give notice, but that the error did not warrant reversal.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed Jackson’s convictions. 
Jackson appealed.  On December 23, 2014, the Court ordered oral argument on whether to grant the application or take other action.  The parties were directed to address: (1) whether the challenged testimony of Jacklyn Price regarding the defendant’s prior sexual relationships was admissible res gestae evidence; (2) if so, whether the prosecutor was required to provide notice pursuant to MRE 404(b)(2); and (3) whether, if notice was required, any failure in this regard was prejudicial error warranting reversal.