The Office of the Attorney General has asked the Superior Court to prevent the lawyer of murder suspect Joseph A. Crisostomo from referring to the prior convictions of their witnesses during the trial.
Attorney Janet H. King, counsel for Crisostomo, opposed the motion. She asserted that the government has cited no other legal basis for excluding what they acknowledge is relevant and admissible evidence. She also argued that the Commonwealth has not provided to the court or Crisostomo any specific information as to why the probative value of the unidentified convictions is outweighed by the prejudicial nature of the convictions.
Assistant attorney general James McAllister said the government intends to introduce testimony from several witnesses, including acquaintances of Crisostomo who may have criminal records.
McAllister said not all of these convictions are admissible under the applicable rules of evidence.
The prosecutor added that even mentioning inadmissible convictions at trial would be prejudicial, even if the prosecution readily objects and the court strikes the statements from the record.
He said if the defense counsel feels that prior conviction evidence is relevant and material at any point during the trial, the defense counsel shall inform the court and the prosecutor outside the presence of the jury.
King argued, however, that the government makes this claim without offering any specifics as to how the mention of prior convictions of unidentified witnesses might prejudice the Commonwealth in its presentation of its case.
King said the government is asking the court to exclude evidence that the Commonwealth acknowledges is admissible and relevant without giving the court or Crisostomo any way of evaluating the probative or prejudicial value of the evidence, independent of the government’s assertion.
The trial of 40-year-old Crisostomo will begin on Oct. 15, 2013.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found Romero’s body at the former La Fiesta Mall in San Roque on Feb. 7, 2012, two days before she was last seen boarding a car near her house in Garapan.