U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
Evidence — other acts
Although it was error to admit evidence of a small quantity of cocaine for personal use in a conspiracy to distribute trial, the error is harmless.
“In sum, to overcome an opponent’s objection to the introduction of other-act evidence, the proponent of the evidence must first establish that the other act is relevant to a specific purpose other than the person’s character or propensity to behave in a certain way. See FED. R. EVID. 401, 402, 404(b). Other-act evidence need not be excluded whenever a propensity inference can be drawn. But its relevance to ‘another purpose’ must be established through a chain of reasoning that does not rely on the forbidden inference that the person has a certain character and acted in accordance with that character on the occasion charged in the case. If the proponent can make this initial showing, the district court must in every case assess whether the probative value of the other-act evidence is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice and may exclude the evidence under Rule 403 if the risk is too great. The court’s Rule 403 balancing should take account of the extent to which the non-propensity fact for which the evidence is offered actually is at issue in the case.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Hibbler, J., Sykes, J.