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State v. Winebarger
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
617 S.E.2d 467 (2005)
Kenny Price went to his wife’s parents’ house because he was upset with his father-in-law, Dewey Winebarger (defendant). Winebarger claimed that Price was intoxicated and became increasingly violent and aggressive as the two argued. Winebarger further claimed that he attempted to warn Price to back off by firing a warning shot into the air with a handgun. However, Winebarger’s bullet hit Price in the neck and killed him. Winebarger was charged with first-degree murder. Winebarger had a history of displaying a handgun during arguments. After conducting a hearing and determining that the evidence was reliable, the trial court allowed the jury to see evidence of three prior incidents involving Winebarger displaying a handgun during an argument, even though Winebarger had not discharged the gun in any of these prior incidents. One of the prior incidents had occurred 15 years earlier. The trial court instructed the jury that it was not allowed to use the prior-incident evidence to determine Winebarger’s character or whether he had a propensity for shooting someone. Rather, the jury was told to use the prior-incident evidence only to determine whether Winebarger had mistakenly or intentionally shot Price. Winebarger was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Winebarger appealed the conviction, arguing that the previous gun incidents were inadmissible prior bad acts and should have been excluded.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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