“The Court of Appeals erred in holding the trial court acted within its discretion in allowing the State to introduce extensive details about an extraneous offense during the guilt-innocence phase when Perkins was willing to stipulate to it.”
Perkins was charged with aggravated assault against Lana Hyles, a former girlfriend. Both sides agreed that Hyles sustained a bleeding gash to her nose in a car that Perkins was driving. The State’s theory was that Perkins rammed her head into the vehicle’s console. Hyles testified to this, and a bystander testified she pulled up behind the car to assist Hyles and saw Perkins gripping Hyles by the hair, trying to pull her back into the car. The defense theory was that it was an accident. Perkins testified that, while he was driving, Hyles switched the car’s gear into reverse or park, he applied the brakes, and she hit her face on the console.
The State offered evidence of Perkins’s extraneous assault on a different girlfriend to rebut Perkins’s defensive theory and show lack of accident. Perkins offered to stipulate to the extraneous assault and argued that details of the assault were inadmissible in light of his stipulation. The trial court ruled the State did not have to accept the stipulation. It permitted the extraneous victim and others to testify and instructed the jury to consider this evidence only for intent, motive, absence of mistake, lack of accident, or to rebut a defensive theory. The extraneous victim testified that she awakened Perkins one night and they argued. He struck her multiple times with a closed fist until she lost consciousness. He also threw her, hit her in the ribs, and dragged her by the hair into another room. She sustained a black eye, broken ribs, and a “brain bleed.” The jury convicted Perkins.
On appeal, he challenged the admission of evidence about the extraneous assault. The court of appeals found the trial court’s Rule 404(b) ruling was within the zone of reasonable disagreement and that any potential harm was mitigated by the trial court’s limiting instruction.
Perkins contends the court of appeals utterly failed to analyze how Rule 404(b) and Rule 403 apply to this case. He argues that his offer to stipulate hugely lessened any probative value there was to the details of the extraneous assault. While the State argued that his assault on another girlfriend made it less likely his assault on Hyles was accidental, Perkins asserts that his stipulation would accomplish this. It also lessened the State’s need for the evidence. He contends that the details were especially prejudicial because the extraneous assault was much more severe and because the trial was almost as much about that incident as the one being tried.