I believe that it is good law not to allow character witnesses by the prosecution unless the defendant calls their own. Character evidence is inadmissible in a general sense to prove the commission of a particular act. To allow it would be tantamount to allowing convictions of people who have bad reputations or are unpopular. Character evidence has no probative value for the prosecution. If a defendant calls character witnesses to refute the central elements of a charge, it then becomes probative on the part of the prosecution to call character witnesses in rebuttal.
These witnesses are still not probative in and of themselves, but as rebuttal to defendant claims, they accomplish two goals: first they rebut claims that an act was “out of character” for a defendant, and second, they offer evidence as to the credibility of the defendant’s witnesses. The US Supreme Court case of Michelson v. United States (1948) centered on the admissibility of character witnesses.
While in this case the prosecution did not call their own character witnesses, but rather, cross-examined the defendant’s, the opinion discusses the notion of character witnesses being called by both sides and the care with which such a decision ought to be made by parties, or allowed by judges. (Michelson, 1948) In addition to setting off a “he said-she said” argument on an only tangentially probative issue, character witnesses very quickly venture into territory that could properly be called hearsay, which is inadmissible under a whole different set of rules.(Michelson, 1948)
Chval, K. (2006) “Chain of Custody”. Higher Education EdTech Magazine, May/June 2006. Pg. 38-40. Michelson v. United States, 335 U. S. 469 (1948) Weeks, G. (2005). “Rule 404(B) Misconduct Evidence” Speech By Judge Weeks to Superior Court judges Conference, Ashville, NC on June 21-24, 2005. Retrieved May 19th, 2009 from University of North Carolina website: http://www. sog. unc. edu/faculty/smithjess/200506conference/200506WeeksUncharged. pdf