The prosecution’s case is severely lacking. Thus, the government is grabbing at air to construct and put forth a narrative to bolster the alleged victim’s baseless claims which are the basis for the current charges against my client, defendant O XXXXX.
The People’s Molineux application seeks to introduce the victim’s allegations of isolated incidents that are neither inextricably interwoven with each other much less the charged crime against defendant, nor probative of any other matter relevant to the charges facing defendant. The admissibility of such alleged evidence is unfairly prejudicial to Mr. XXXXX, as a disguised attempt to undermine his fifth amendment rights and subject to use by jurors for an improper propensity purpose and to be given undue weight, serves to cause undue confusion amongst the jurors and undue delay in the administration of justice and resolution of this case, and frustrates defendant’s right to a fair trial. Thus, the probative value of such alleged evidence is substantially outweighed by its danger for unfair prejudice and therefore, is inadmissible. People v. Molineux, 168 N.Y. 264 (1901).
THE PROPOSED EVIDENCE OF DEFENDANT’S PRIOR BAD ACTS IS NOT RELEVANT OR MATERIAL TO ANY ISSUE IN THIS CASE AND SHOULD NOT BE ADMITTED.
“Molineux jurisprudence begin(s) with the premise that uncharged crimes are inadmissible and, from there, carve(s) out exceptions.” People v. Renee Resek, 2004 NY Int. 144 (2004). Evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts may be admissible when it is relevant to a material issue in the case other than defendant’s criminal propensity, the People may use such evidence to prove motive, intent, lack of mistake or accident, identity, common scheme or plan. Such evidence may also, “in appropriate instances’ be allowed when it is needed as background material or to complete the narrative of the episode or series of events and then only if it is “inextricably interwoven” with the crime charged (People v. Vails, 43 N.Y.2d 364 (1977)). However, only after a proper non-propensity purpose is established, is the decision whether to admit evidence of defendant’s prior bad acts, determined by the trial court’s discretionary balancing of probative value and unfair prejudice, triggered. People v. Dorm, 12N.Y.3d 16 (2009); see People v Ventimiglia, 52 NY2d 350, 359-360 (1981); People v Santarelli, 49 NY2d 241, 250 (1980); People v Allweiss, 48 NY2d 40, 47 (1979). “Indeed, ‘[i]n deciding whether to admit evidence of prior criminal or immoral conduct . . ., the trial court must take special care to ensure not only that the evidence bears some articulable relation to the issue, but also that its probative value in fact warrants its admission despite the potential for prejudice’” People v. Wlasiuk, 32 A.D.3d 674 (3rd Dept. 2006) citing People v. Santarelli, 49 NY2d 241, 250 (1980)). Such evidence must be rejected if its potential for unfair prejudice outweighs its probative value, as is the case here. SeePeople v. Westerling, 48 A.D.3d 965 (3rd Dept. 2008). Moreover, admissibility under Molineux must be adjudged on a case-specific basis. Wlasiuk.
Here, as mentioned before, the alleged charged acts do not constitute an episode, nor is there any series of events or related narrative to contextualize complainant’s baseless and naked allegations. Moreover, the purported evidence of uncharged acts is neither material nor probative of any alleged motive the people assert defendant had in allegedly committing the charged acts and therefore does not even establish the first prong of admissibility.
The people rest on the complainant’s alleged fear of defendant in seeking admissibility of the uncharged acts. However, the people’s own allegations would seem to suggest that complainant is not the fearful overpowered domestic violence victim they are portraying, but rather she appears to be fearless, empowered, resolved, and able to stand her ground. In enumerating the alleged uncharged acts, the people indicated that the complainant successfully resisted defendant both when she refused to have an abortion and when defendant tried “to convince” the complainant to drink a concoction. Implying that if this were true, not only was defendant unsuccessful in getting complainant to do what he wanted, but she fearlessly stood her ground in not getting an abortion, not drinking the alleged concoction, and moving forward with having their child allegedly against defendant wishes. This considered with complainant’s impulsive and fearless call to the police on May 15, 2012 while defendant was present and in the midst of their argument after he alleged that she had stolen over $7,000 from him suggests that any claim of fear by the complainant is just an opportunity to bolster her charged allegations. While the responding officers advised her to seek an order of protection if she felt she needed one, complainant neither sought an order of protection nor left defendant’s home that night, that week or that month. In fact, where was complainant’s fear when after she ultimately did leave, between August and October 2012, she travelled from the Bronx to Brooklyn on several occasions to visit defendant against shelter rules. Where was complainant’s fear when she walked into the Family Justice Center on November 7, 2012, having not gone to the doctor and after waiting nearly 2 weeks to report the alleged rape. Thus, the purported uncharged acts, have no probative value in showing complainant’s fear of defendant.
THE PROPOSED EVIDENCE OF DEFENDANT’S PRIOR BAD ACTS PRESENTS THE DANGER FOR UNFAIR PREJUDICE THAT SUBSTANTIALLY OUTWEIGHS ANY PROBATIVE VALUE WHICH COULD BE DERIVED FROM IT
While we recognize the uniqueness of domestic assault cases from stranger assaults People v. Bierenbaum, 301 A.D.2d 119 (1st Dept. 2002), the purported acts the people seek to present do not, by themselves without more, rise to the level of domestic abuse nor do they “evince defendant’s intent to focus his aggression” on the complainant to establish admissibility under Molineux. If the people’s argument is that the charged acts in the indictment require additional context and background for them to effectively make out their case and hope to overcome a charge of fabrication by the complainant, that argument fails in gaining admissibility of the uncharged acts. The naked allegations of proposed prior uncharged acts would seem to require even more context and background for the jury just to make a determination of whether those uncharged acts even constitute abuse, and then whether it was focused on complainant, and further whether those acts are inextricably interwoven with the charged acts.
Moreover, this case is easily distinguishable from Linton, People v. Linton, 166 A.D.2d 670 (2d Dep’t. 1990) and the line of domestic violence cases following Bierenbaum, such that the purported evidence is neither probative of any motive by defendant to commit the crimes charged. In those cases, the prior uncharged acts were not only substantial but also clearly abusive and threatening in nature. Here, as previously mentioned, the proposed prior uncharged acts do not independently or together constitute abuse or establish complainant’s alleged fear of defendant and would require what would amount to mini-trials just to attempt to establish the people’s position of defendant’s alleged history of and pattern of control and dominance over complainant. Additionally, because of the overwhelming lack of evidence in the people’s case, there is a high probability that the jury will give such prior uncharged acts undue weight suggesting that the danger for unfair prejudice presented by this evidence substantially outweighs any probative value it is alleged to have. Wlasiuk. And see People v. Lewis, 69 NY2d 321, 325 (1987]); People v Ventimiglia, supra at 359; People v Condon, 26 NY2d 139, 143 (1970); see alsoPeople v Richardson, 137 AD2d 105, 108-109 (1988).
The proposed evidence of prior uncharged acts that the people seek to introduce in their case-in-chief is inadmissible under Molineux. First, the prior uncharged acts are not material or relevant to this case. In a vacuum, they do not amount to prior abuse. Nor do they establish any history of or pattern of control and dominance of defendant over the complainant that would tend to describe the nature of their relationship. Moreover, they are not inextricably interwoven with the charged crimes. Second, admissibility of such evidence is highly prejudicial to defendant, as it is subject to use by the jury for an improper propensity purpose to taint their view of defendant, it may be given undue weight, it would cause unnecessary confusion and undue delay requiring mini trials, and it would deprive defendant of his right to a fair trial. Thus the evidence sought to be introduced by the people is inadmissible since its danger for unfair prejudice substantially outweighs its probative value.