ADMISSION OF PREJUDICIAL EVIDENCE UNRELATED TO THE CHARGED OFFENSES WAS REVERSIBLE ERROR.
The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Richter, determined photographs depicting defendants making gang signs and holding a weapon, as well as Facebook messages sent by a defendant boasting about firing weapons should not have been admitted in this weapons possession trial. Neither the pictures nor the messages related to the weapon defendants' were alleged to have possessed, which was found on the backseat of a car. The prejudicial effect of the evidence outweighed its probative value:
There was no evidence that the gun in the photographs had anything to do with the gun found in the car or with any other criminal activity. … The mere fact that defendants were in possession of a different gun in the past is not probative of whether they knowingly possessed the weapon they were charged with possessing. Nor are the photographs probative of defendants' intent to unlawfully use the weapon found in the car. They merely show defendants displaying a gun, and do not depict any unlawful use of the weapon. * * *
The People concede that [defendant] was not referring to the charged crime in [the Facebook] messages, but to an entirely different incident that occurred months later. Thus, these messages are far too attenuated to have any probative value as to [defendant's] knowledge of the gun found in the car or his intent to use that weapon on the day of the incident … . People v Singleton, 2016 NY Slip Op 02945, 1st Dept 4-19-16