Brief Fact Summary. Terry Kim Perrin (“Mr. Perrin”) was shot and killed by Oklahoma state troopers. The troopers had gone to Mr. Perrin’s house to ask him questions about a traffic accident. At some point during the conversation, an altercation ensued and Mr. Perrin was killed by one of the officers.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under Federal Rules of Evidence (“F.R.E.”) Rule 405, testimony regarding specific instances of conduct may be used only when character is a material fact pursuant to substantive law in determining the rights and liabilities of the parties.
Issue. Should the District Court have allowed the evidence establishing Mr. Perrin’s character?
Was it improper to allow testimony from the officers regarding specific instances of conduct pursuant to F.R.E. Rule 405?
Should the testimony of the officer have been allowed under F.R.E. Rule 406 to establish habit?
Held. The defendants were entitled to present evidence of Mr. Perrin’s character from which the jury could infer that Mr. Perrin was the aggressor.
The District Court should not have permitted testimony about specific prior incidents.
Circuit Judge Logan, found in affirming the decision of the district court, that the testimony of Mr. Perrin’s previous encounters with officers was admissible as evidence of habit under F.R.E. Rule 406.
Discussion. While the Court found character evidence was admissible under F.R.E. Rule 404, the type of evidence offered was not allowed pursuant to F.R.E. Rule 405 because character was not a material fact under the substantive law. However, the Court affirmed the District Court’s alternative ruling allowing the character evidence to establish habit under F.R.E. Rule 406. During trial, the defendants were prepared to offer testimony from eight officers, but the Court only allowed four. Further, the Court explicitly stated that the testimony from four officers was sufficient to establish habit.