Murder Conviction Reversed Due to Improper Expert Testimony

State v. Robert Prather

Prather was convicted of murder based on an incident that took place at the victim’s residence. Prather, the victim, and two other individuals were at the apartment drinking. In the course of events, the victim ended up being beaten and he died from his injuries. Prather denied involvement, and claimed that one of the other individuals had beaten the victim earlier that night, and that the victim and that individual had engaged in sexual acts earlier in the night as well. A responding officer claimed that Prather admitted to beating the victim. Prather denied making this statement. At trial, the State was permitted to present rebuttal testimony in the form of an expert who opined that the crime was committed by two individuals, based on the way that the victim’s body was left “staged.” The COA held that the trial court abused its discretion in permitting this testimony because it did not rebut Prather’s testimony. The court’s error was not harmless, and therefore Prather’s conviction was reversed. 

Read the full opinion here.

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