State v. Sawyer

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 04-04-2018
  • Case #: A162638
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, P.J. for the Court; DeVore, J.; & James, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

For a trial court to show that it complied with Mayfield's OEC 403 balancing requirements, it must "(1) demonstrate that the court consciously conducted the required balancing and (2) allow for meaningful review of that balancing." Ydrogo, 289 Or App 488, 492 (2017).

Sawyer appealed his conviction for second-degree criminal mischief and assigned error to the trial court’s admission of fifteen photographs “depicting the poor condition in which [he] left the rental home when he vacated it.” On appeal, Sawyer argued that “the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the evidence without making the record required by State v. Mayfield, 302 Or 631 (1987)” and by “concluding that the probative value . . . was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” In response, State argued that the court did not abuse its discretion in that conclusion.

In conducting a rule 403 balancing test, the court must: (1) analyze the probative value and consider the strength of the evidence; (2) “determine how prejudicial the evidence is, to what extent the evidence may distract the jury from the central question”; (3) balance those steps; and (4) either “admit all the proponent’s evidence, to exclude all the proponent’s evidence or to admit only part of the evidence.” Mayfield, 302 Or at 645. The court’s record must “demonstrate that the court consciously conducted the required balancing” and also “allow for meaningful review of that balancing.” Ydrogo, 289 Or App 488, 492 (2017).

The Court held that the trial court failed to explain how the evidence was relevant, why the strength of the evidence did not substantially outweigh the risk of unfair prejudice, and which theories of relevance it accepted. The record was therefore “inadequate to allow for meaningful appellate review” and “does not satisfy the requirements of Mayfield.” Reversed and remanded. 

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