Donald Southworth v. Commonwealth, 2012-SC-000179, 3/20/14, To be Published.
The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed and remanded Southworth’s conviction and life sentence for the alleged murder of his wife Umi. DNA of an unknown individual was located inside the victim, and the Commonwealth introduced evidence--over defense objection— permitting testimony regarding Southworth’s prior act of placing of another man’s semen into someone—on the ground it was a signature act or modus operandi "because it was so bizarre.” The majority of the Court found the evidence was irrelevant because the act of semen insertion did not involve a “unique capacity, skill, or knowledge of the defendant.” Also, there was no proof this was the method used to put the semen in Umi’s body. The admission of this other-acts evidence violated KRE 404(b) and prejudiced Southworth.
Mr. Southworth was represented by Tucker Richardson and Russel J. Baldani at trial court and by Shannon Renee Dupree and Jason Apollo Hart on appeal.
Contributed by Susan Balliet