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A California appeals court overturned a murder and DUI conviction from 2014 yesterday, citing a prejudicial error in the trial proceedings to justify the reversal.

Sherri Lynn Wilkins was convicted in February 2014 of murder and driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to serve 55 years to life imprisonment.

Wilkins was charged with and convicted of killing Phillip Moreno with her car in November 2012. Wilkins allegedly drove more than two miles with Moreno injured and on her vehicle’s windshield. Moreno later died at a hospital.

During Wilkins’ trial, the prosecution entered into evidence—and thus for the jury’s consideration—Wilkins’ criminal “rap sheet,” containing her entire criminal history. Allowing the prosecutors to present this evidence to the jury, the court of appeals ruled, was too prejudicial and violated Wilkins’ rights.

As a result, the California appeals court found this error too great to ignore, warranting reversal of Wilkins’ convictions. The prosecution may proceed with another trial against Wilkins on the murder and DUI charges.

It is a fundamental principle of our criminal justice system that trials against individuals accused of crimes should be based only on the facts and the law, not the defendant’s character. Introducing into evidence Ms. Wilkins’ entire criminal history for the jury to consider violated this axiom, and the state appellate court recognized the error as too damaging to let the conviction stand.

Ronald G. Brower is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. With over three decades of experience, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with a range of crimes, including murder.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower today at 714-997-4400 or online.

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