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Res Gestae and the Complete Story

Res gestae is evidence of other acts to tell the whole story. It can be used to put actions in context and paint the whole picture. This evidence usually coincides with Lyle evidence, but it is different. If res gestae is permissible, then the court should still make an SCRE 403 ruling on the evidence.


· State v. Nelson, 331 S.C. 1 (1998) Res gestae evidence is used to present a full picture of the case and to put the crime in context. The Court cites a case which holds that res gestae is rarely used in child sexual abuse cases.


· State v. Bolden, 303 S.C. 41 (1990) Trial court improperly allowed in evidence that the defendant smoked crack the night of the armed robbery. Evidence of the drug use was not essential to the full presentation of the case, nor was it intimately connected with the charged crimes that it was needed to complete the whole story.


· State v. Wood, 362 S.C. 520 (Ct. App. 2004) The prior bad act should be related closely in temporal proximity to the charged offense. In this case, defendant shot and killed a state trooper, in Greenville County, shortly before committing several crimes in Anderson County. In the Anderson trial, the court allowed the State to refer to the murder as the “incident” and give brief facts, but none specifically about the murder. The trial court properly allowed in the “incident” evidence because it was necessary and relevant to put up a full presentation of the case: “The ‘incident’ provided the context and motivation for the crimes at issue. The testimony regarding the ‘incident’ was relevant to show the complete, whole, unfragmented story regarding Wood's crimes. The Wheelers' testimony elucidates both the reason police pursued the Jeep and the reason Wood shot at, harmed, and threatened the officers who attempted to apprehend him. Furthermore, the crimes were temporally related. The shooting took place only two hours before the occurrence at issue. The two crimes comprise part of the same episode. The crimes are so concatenated as to be inextricably intertwined.”


· State v. King, 334 S.C. 504 (1999) Res gestae theory allows in other bad act evidence if it is integral to the crime charged or to provide understanding and context. “when such evidence furnishes part of the context of the crime or is necessary to a full presentation of the case, or is so intimately connected with and explanatory of the crime charged against the defendant and is so much a part of the setting of the case and its environment that its proof is appropriate in order to complete the story of the crime on trial by proving its immediate context or the res gestae or the ‘uncharged offense is so linked together in point of time and circumstances with the crime charged that one cannot be fully shown without proving the other ... [and is thus] part of the res gestae of the crime charged. And where evidence is admissible to provide this full presentation’ of the offense, [t]here is no reason to fragmentize the event under inquiry by suppressing parts of the res gestae.”


· United States v. Sutherland, 921 F.3d 421 (4th Cir. 2019) There is another exception to 404(b) that is called res gestae ("things done"). This type of intrinsic evidence is not considered prior acts because it is part of the whole picture. It is used to explain a continuing situation. A question that arises then is when did the "situation" start and when did it end? “Evidence of other bad acts is intrinsic if, among other things, it involves the same series of transactions as the charged offense, or if it is necessary to complete the story of the crime on trial.” (cleaned up)


· United States v. Bush, 944 F.3d 189 (4th Cir. 2019) The defendant was charged with distribution of crack cocaine and conspiracy to distribute. The conspiracy took place from approximately 2008-2017. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to prison for distributing crack cocaine on state charges and served in prison from 2011-2013. The government wanted to introduce this conviction to show his role in the conspiracy and claimed that this evidence was intrinsic to the alleged crime. However, the defense claimed that this conviction was extrinsic, or that it was separate or unrelated to the charged offense, and thus the judge should have conducted an FRE 404(b) ruling. The trial judge, after a thorough examination, held that the evidence was intrinsic of the conspiracy and allowed in the evidence without regards to 404(b). The Fourth Circuit upheld this ruling and explained the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic evidence as it relates to 404(b): “But the provisions of Rule 404(b) are only applicable when the challenged evidence is extrinsic, that is, ‘separate’ from or ‘unrelated’ to the charged offense. … Accordingly, we have consistently held that ‘acts intrinsic to the alleged crime do not fall under Rule 404(b)’s limitations on admissible evidence.’” The court then held that other acts are intrinsic “when they are inextricably intertwined or both acts are part of a single criminal episode or the other acts were necessary preliminaries to the crime charged…And such evidence is inextricably intertwined with the evidence regarding the charged offense if it forms an integral and natural part of the witness’s accounts of the circumstances surrounding the offenses for which the defendant was indicted.”


· State v. Gagum, 328 S.C. 560 (Ct. App. 1997) Res gestae has been used to describe both an exception to hearsay and evidence of prior acts. They are distinct and only share the same name.