EVIDENCE OF AN UNRELATED DRUG SALE WAS NOT ADMISSIBLE TO SHOW DEFENDANT’S MOTIVE, CONVICTION REVERSED.
The Third Department reversed defendant’s conviction in a drug-sale case because evidence of a prior unrelated drug sale was allowed to be introduced. There was no issue in the case to which the prior crime pertained. The evidence was not necessary to demonstrate defendant’s motive. The prejudicial effect of the evidence, therefore, outweighed its probative value:
Evidence of prior bad acts or uncharged crimes may be admissible to show motive to commit a crime under one of the traditional Molineux exceptions — where the probative value exceeds its prejudicial effect … . That said, “there is usually no issue of motive in a drug sale case, as the seller’s motivation is nearly always financial gain” … . Moreover, “evidence of similar uncharged crimes has probative value, but as a general rule it is excluded for policy reasons because it may induce the jury to base a finding of guilt on collateral matters or to convict a defendant because of his [or her] past” … . The [evidence in question] is highly suggestive of an illicit drug transaction, and it is difficult to discern any relevant impact other than to show defendant’s criminal propensity. As this case largely turned on [a witness’] credibility, we cannot characterize the error in admitting this evidence as harmless, notwithstanding County Court’s curative instruction … . People v Magee, 2016 NY Slip Op 00399, 3rd Dept 1-21-16
CRIMINAL LAW (EVIDENCE OF UNRELATED PRIOR CRIME SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ADMITTED, CONVICTION REVERSED)/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE OF UNRELATED PRIOR CRIME SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ADMITTED, CONVICTION REVERSED)/MOLINEUX (EVIDENCE OF UNRELATED PRIOR CRIME SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ADMITTED, CONVICTION REVERSED)