MILLER, P. J., RICKMAN and REESE, JJ.
Jackson was indicted on three counts of aggravated assault
(family violence), one count of battery (family violence),
one count of simple assault (family violence), and one count
of criminal trespass. The State filed a "Notice of
Intent to Present Other Acts Evidence" seeking to admit
evidence of prior bad acts pursuant to OCGA § 24-4-404
(b) through the testimony of three witnesses. The trial court
denied the State's motion. On appeal, the State contends
that the trial court applied an improper standard when it
excluded the evidence. For the following reasons, we vacate
the judgment and remand this case to the trial court for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
reviewing an evidentiary ruling, this Court must determine
whether that ruling constituted an abuse of the trial
court's discretion." Williams v. State, 328
Ga.App. 876, 880 (1) (763 S.E.2d 261) (2014).
to Jackson's trial for crimes of family violence against
a woman with whom he previously resided, the State filed its
notice to introduce evidence of his prior bad acts against
three other women pursuant to OCGA § 24-4-404 (b).
Following a hearing, the trial court found that "[t]he
State has identified three witnesses, all of whom previously
were romantically involved with Jackson and all of whom
allegedly will testify as to acts of domestic violence
committed against them by Jackson in the past." As to
each of the witnesses, the trial court found that the
probative value of the evidence was outweighed by the danger
of unfair prejudice.
of other crimes, wrongs, or acts shall not be admissible to
prove the character of a person in order to show action in
conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for
other purposes, including, but not limited to, proof of
motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge,
identity, or absence of mistake or accident." OCGA
§ 24-4-404 (b). "Relevant evidence may be excluded
if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the
danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or
misleading the jury or by considerations of undue delay,
waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative
evidence." OCGA § 24-4-403.
to the enactment of the new evidence code, Georgia had no
direct statutory equivalent to Rule 403, but case law on the
issue generally required that a trial court merely balance
the probative value of evidence with its prejudicial effect
without requiring that the objecting party establish
substantial prejudice." Williams, 328 Ga.App.
at 879 (1). "In stark contrast, the plain meaning of
OCGA § 24-4-403's text makes clear that the trial
court may only exclude relevant evidence when its probative
value is 'substantially outweighed' by one of the
designated concerns." Id.
exclusion of evidence under Rule 403 is an extraordinary
remedy which should be used only sparingly." (Citation
and punctuation omitted.) Olds v. State, 299 Ga. 65,
70 (2) (786 S.E.2d 633) (2016). "Obviously, the reason
for such caution is that relevant evidence in a criminal
trial is 'inherently prejudicial,' and, as a result,
Rule 403 permits exclusion only when unfair prejudice
substantially outweighs probative value." (Citation and
punctuation omitted.) Williams, 328 Ga.App. at 879
(1). "The primary function of Rule 403, then, is to
exclude evidence of scant or cumulative probative force,
dragged in by the heels for the sake of its prejudicial
effect." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Id. at 879-880 (1).
previously noted, in reviewing an evidentiary ruling, this
Court must determine whether that ruling constituted an abuse
of the trial court's discretion." Williams,
328 Ga.App. at 880 (1). "A proper application of the
abuse-of-discretion review recognizes the range of possible
conclusions the trial judge may reach, and that there will
often be occasions in which we will affirm the evidentiary
ruling of a trial court even though we would have gone the
other way had it been our call." (Citation and
punctuation omitted.) Id. "That said, while the
abuse-of-discretion standard presupposes a range of possible
conclusions that can be reached by a trial court with regard
to a particular evidentiary issue, it does not permit a clear
error of judgment or the application of the wrong legal
standard." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
the trial court found only that the probative value of the
other acts evidence was outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice and failed to analyze whether such prejudice
substantially outweighed any probative value. Accordingly,
the trial court erred when it performed its analysis of the
issue under OCGA § 24-4-403. See Williams, 328
Ga.App. at 880 (1). We therefore vacate the judgment and
remand the case for reconsideration in light of the correct
standard under OCGA § 24-4-403. See generally State
v. Warren, 242 Ga.App. 605, 605 (530 S.E.2d 515) (2000).
vacated; case remanded.
Miller, P J, and ...