State v. Lane, 2019 UT App 86 (May 23, 2019)

The court of appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction for assault and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person on the basis the district court applied the wrong standard in admitting prior act evidence under the doctrine of chances.  The district court’s analysis was limited to “mechanically applying Verde’s foundational requirements under Rule 404(b)” and did not involve a separate rule 403 analysis.  In this case, the prejudicial inference that the defendant’s character predisposed him to get in knife fights and then claim self-defense substantially outweighed the State’s justifications for admitting the evidence.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Harris raised the question – not presented by the defendant – whether it could ever be appropriate for the doctrine of chances to be applied to admit prior acts evidence to rebut a defendant’s claim he acted in self-defense, noting it would be worthwhile for a future litigant to raise this issue.