Tucker v. State
82 Nev. 127, 412 P.2d 970 (1966)

  • Tucker called the police and told them to come to his house.  In Tucker’s house was the dead body of Kaylor, who had been shot.  Tucker professed no knowledge of how Kaylor got into his house or who shot him.
    • A grand jury investigated, but no one was ever charged with killing Kaylor.
  • Six years later, Tucker called the police and told them to come to his house.  In Tucker’s house was the dead body of Evans, who had been shot.  Tucker professed no knowledge of how Evans got into his house or who shot him.
  • Tucker was arrested and charged with murdering Evans.
  • At trial, the prosecution attempted to introduce details of the Kaylor killing into evidence.
    • Tucker objected on the grounds that the evidence was inadmissible.
    • The prosecution argued that it was admissible as a prior crime.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the evidence to be admitted.
    • The Trial Judge reasoned that the circumstances of Kaylor’s and Evans’ deaths were sufficiently parallel to render admissible evidence of the Kaylor homicide to prove that Tucker intended to kill Evans, that the killing was part of a common scheme or plan in Tucker’s mind, and to negate the defense of accidental death.
  • The Trial Court convicted Tucker of second degree murder.  Tucker appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that under Nevada common law, evidence which shows that the defendant committed other offenses is inadmissible to prove commission of the crime charged unless the evidence meets an exception.
      • Exceptions included evidence relevant to prove motive, identity, the absence of a mistake, or a common scheme or plan.
    • The Appellate Court found that the first requisite for admissibility is that the defendant actually committed the prior crime.  In this case, Tucker was never even charged (nevermind convicted) of murdering Kaylor.  Therefore, evidence of that crime could not be introduced to show Tucker killed Evans.
      • “Anonymous crimes can have no relevance in deciding whether the defendant committed the crime with which he is charged.”
  • Basically, evidence of a prior crime or act is only admissible if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant actually committed that crime or act.
  • This case was decided under the common law.  Today, it would be covered by FRE 404(b), and the result would have likely been different.
    • See Huddleson v. United States (485 U.S. 681, 108 S.Ct. 1496, 99 L.Ed.2d 771 (1988)).