Towles v. Alabama

Kevin Towles was convicted of capital murder for killing his son, Geontae Glass, who was under the age of 14 when he was killed. The jury recommended the death sentence, and the trial court sentenced Towles to death. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Towles's conviction and sentence in a per curiam opinion. The State petitioned for certiorari, arguing the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in reversing Towles's conviction based on the admission of certain testimony by Towles' other son, because the testimony was relevant and admissible to prove Towles's motive for killing Geontae. The State further argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in failing to apply a harmless-error analysis to the trial court's erroneous limiting instruction, which allowed the jury to consider Towles's collateral bad acts for improper purposes. Towles contends that the Court of Criminal Appeals did not err in determining that Cameron's testimony was inadmissible to show motive because, he says, there was no logical or factual connection between Geontae's killing and the incidents of abuse testified to by Cameron. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the prior bad acts of assault and physical abuse were not perpetrated by Towles upon the victim Geontae. Rather, the prior assaults and abuse were perpetrated upon Cameron approximately three years before Geontae's murder. "We cannot say that Cameron's testimony relating to the physical assaults he suffered at the hands of Towles approximately three years before Geontae's murder was relevant to show that Towles intended to kill Geontae. Further, where the jury was faced with deciding whether Towles intended to murder Geontae or to assault him for disciplinary issues at school, the admission of the collateral assaults perpetrated by Towles upon Cameron were highly prejudicial. The probative value, if any, of the testimony concerning the collateral assaults upon one son simply does not outweigh the undue prejudice to Towles in his prosecution for the capital murder of his other son." Accordingly the trial court's admission of the collateral-acts testimony to show intent and its limiting instruction to the jury that the jury could consider the testimony for purposes of establishing intent constituted plain error. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Criminal Appeals. View "Towles v. Alabama" on Justia Law