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151899 - People v Ernesto Evaristo Uribe

The People of the State of Michigan,
 
Brent Morton
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Eaton – Cunningham, J.)
 
Ernesto Evaristo Uribe,
 
Ann M. Prater
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 

Summary

The prosecutor charged Ernesto Evaristo Uribe with five counts of criminal sexual conduct as a result of his alleged abuse of a young girl between the ages of five and nine years old.  Before trial, the prosecutor sought the trial court’s permission to introduce, under MCL 768.27a, evidence that Uribe had also attempted sexual contact with the young girl’s half-sister, his biological daughter.  MCL 768.27a is an evidentiary statute that applies to cases, like this one, in which a defendant is charged with a sexual offense against a minor.  The statute allows the prosecution to present evidence that the defendant committed other sex crimes against children.  In People v Watkins, 491 Mich 450 (2012), the Michigan Supreme Court explained that evidence admissible under MCL 768.27a is still subject to MRE 403.  Under that evidentiary rule, a trial court may exclude relevant evidence for several reasons, including if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by danger of unfair prejudice.  In this case, the trial court ruled that the prosecutor would not be permitted to present the evidence to the jury.  The trial court concluded that the proposed testimony did not qualify as admissible under the statute, and that it would be more prejudicial than probative under MRE 403.  The prosecutor appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeals, which reversed in a published opinion.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court misapplied Watkins, and it remanded the case for entry of an order allowing the evidence to be presented at trial.  Uribe filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral argument.  The parties have been directed to address whether the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony offered under MCL 768.27a, and whether the Court of Appeals properly applied Watkins.