The general rule on the admissibility of evidence regarding how a defendant acts after an alleged crime was committed is usually that the prosecutor can introduce testimony that tends to show that the defendants actions prove he knew he was guilty (at least of something). This is labeled, at least by prosecutors, as “consciousness of guilt”.

The theory is that since in most criminal trials the prosecutor has the burden of proving the “mens rea” or intent of the defendant, actions he took to “cover up” his alleged crime are relevant. (I say “most trials”, because the state is not required to prove intent in strict liability offenses.)

The New York Times has an article today about legal arguments in former New Jersey Nets star Jayson Williams retrial on reckless manslaughter in the accidental shooting that happened at his house. He was convicted on four charges relating to tampering with the evidence after the shooting in the first trial and acquitted of aggravated manslaughter, but a mistrial was declared on the reckless manslaughter charge he once again faces.

His lawyers argued that evidence of his actions after the shooting should no longer be presented to the jury in his second trial, because it will be more prejudicial than probative. My prediction is that the evidence will be allowed. From the article:

Justice Barry T. Albin questioned how the actions of Mr. Williams, 38, differed from those of someone accused of manslaughter in the case of a hit-and-run accident or any case in which someone flees. “The prosecution always says he fled because he was guilty,” Justice Albin said. “The defense says he was scared. Why shouldn’t that evidence go to the jury?”

This probably would have been a more difficult legal question for the appeals court, if Williams had been acquitted of these charges in the first trial.

(Hat Tip: How Appealing)