On December 23, 2010, the Court of Appeals for Texas ruled on an appeal from a murder conviction in the trial court. Brumfield v. State of TX, 2010 WL 5187690 (Dec. 23, 2010). The appellant was convicted and given a 90-year sentence for shooting the complainant to death during a fistfight. On appeal, the appellant contended that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a MySpace video in which the appellant was wielding a gun. The state offered the video into evidence through a witness who testified that the appellant and other men created the video just 11 days before the shooting occurred, which she then posted on her MySpace page. The appellant objected to the MySpace video as irrelevant and unduly prejudicial and the appellant contended that the trial court erred in overruling his objections.
With respect to the issue of relevancy, the Court found that the MySpace video was relevant because the State presented witness testimony that the gun in the video was the same weapon used in the offense. Furthermore, because the video had relevance other than to show character conformity, the trial court did not err by overruling appellant’s objection that the video had no other purpose than to depict him as a “person prone to violence because of his ‘bad boy’ image with a weapon.”
The Court also affirmed the trial courts decision to overrule appellant’s objection that the video of him brandishing the gun was unduly prejudicial and should have been excluded. The appellant contended that the video “placed him in the worst possible light” and that the jury would be influenced by appellant’s familiarity with a weapon. Relevant evidence is generally admissible, unless its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
The Court held that the video was highly probative of the issue of whether the appellant was the shooter. First, the video is highly probative of whether the appellant had access to the gun used in the crime. The gun belonged to the appellant’s friend, but the appellant’s possession of the gun on the day the video was filmed makes it more likely than not that appellant was able to obtain possession to commit the offense. Additionally, a witness to the murder testified that the gun in the video was the same gun used to murder the complainant, based on the identifying features of the gun. Lastly, the video was filmed when appellant claimed he was in another state, which was his alibi for the day of the murder.
With respect to the danger of unfair prejudice, the Court held that the video did not show the appellant committing a criminal offense as serious as the charged offense. Therefore, the jury would be unlikely to convict him for merely brandishing a gun and acting like a “bad boy.” Lastly, the trial court mitigated the prejudicial nature by admitting the video without the accompanying audio portions.
The Court also held that the video would not tend to confuse the issues or mislead the jury, because it directly related to the issues in the case regarding the gun used and the appellant’s alibi. In other words, the video directly related to the charged offense. Lastly, the Court held that the video would not cause an undue delay or that it was needlessly cumulative. The State presented the video through the witness who filmed it and uploaded it to her MySpace, and used two witnesses to testify that the gun in the video was the same gun used to commit the crime. In conclusion, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling to overrule the appellant’s objections to the admissibility of the MySpace video.