United States v. Cunningham Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Cunningham, 103 F.3d 553 (7th Cir. 1996)

Facts: D, a nurse, was convicted for stealing drug medicine for her own addiction. During trial, the prosecution introduced evidence of D’s previous addiction to this medicine and D’s suspension of license due to this addiction and other facts. Prosecution argued that this evidence showed motive. D argues that this evidence just shows D’s propensity to commit the crime.

Issue: Can evidence that shows motive be admitted even if it somehow shows propensity?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: Evidence can be admitted to show motive even if it has some effects to show propensity. This is subject to Rule 403 where the judge decides whether the prejudice caused by this evidence clearly outweighs the benefits. The greater the overlap between propensity and motive, the more careful the district judge must be about admitting under the rubric of motive evidence that the jury is likely to use instead as a basis for inferring the D’s propensity. Here the evidence showed that D’s addiction provided her the motive to tamper with the medicine for her personal consumption and the district judge considered the benefits of this evidence to outweigh the prejudicial effects. We cannot second guess the district court. Affirmed.



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