Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A note for any criminally inclined readers who doodle

If you are going to rob someone don't make a doodle of the crime. Ariel Jasso discovered this the hard way when the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Jasso's conviction for robbery and burglary. Mr. Jasso appealed his conviction arguing that the trial court mistakenly allowed the jury to see a doodle he drew of a robbery. The Oregon Court of Appeals helpfully included a copy of the drawing in its opinion. You can see the opinion here.

The drawing is of a masked man holding a gun and robbing a woman. The man says "Gimme tha jewelry bitch" while a thought balloon shows the man thinking "ew". The woman has her hands over her head and appears to be standing on a heart. The opinion doesn't discuss this symbolism. Not to kick Mr. Jasso when he is down but I feel safe in saying that no one will confuse Mr. Jasso's work with the work of Walt Kelly. Note that the drawing doesn't include the words "me" by the gunman.

Anyway, Mr. Jasso argued that allowing the jury to see the drawing would prejudice the jury beyond whatever probative value the drawing might have. The prosecution argued that under Rule 404(4) of the Oregon Evidence Code, the drawing was relevant as "evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts by the defendant." Under Oregon law, the court is not required to balance the probative value of such evidence. The trial court and Court of Appeals agreed with the prosecution. The drawing, the court said, was admissible because it was evidence of another crime, wrong or act by Mr. Jasso.

The opinion is only 4 pages long so the court doesn't really offer a lot of explanation. So the reader should be forgiven if they find the decision very strange. A doodle of a robbery is considered evidence that Mr. Jasso robbed a woman on some other occasion than the time for which he was convicted. Jack Kirby used to draw pictures of Galactus devouring worlds. Steve Ditko, most notably during the origin story of Spiderman, drew pictures of people being robbed. It never occurred to me that these pictures could be viewed as evidence of crimes committed by Messrs. Kirby and Ditko. Perhaps we distinguish them because they are drawing works for hire. Mr. Jasso's doodle, in contrast, is viewed as a sort of artistic confession by Mr. Jasso of another crime he committed. Sort of like "Blood on the Tracks" or "Rise to Me" but not about Bob Dylan's divorce or Colin Meloy's autistic son.

I don't often doodle. But when I do, I draw pictures of boxes. The Oregon Court of Appeals thinks Mr. Jasso should have had a similar practice.


  1. As I understand it, this post is your long-winded way of confessing that you stole a bunch of boxes once.

    I, for one, forgive you.

  2. Thanks old pal. I knew I could count on you.

  3. Also, I should note that my doodles are only of boxes and not of me stealing boxes.

  4. Riiiiiight.

    For what it's worth, my doodles are all pictures of me doing good deeds, like helping the elderly across the street. I don't know what this says about me.


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