A jury convicted Young of attempted 1st-degree intentional homicide and 1st degree recklessly-endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon. On appeal, he argued that the trial court should not have permitted the jury to hear evidence that his younger brother was killed exactly one year prior to the date he allegedly shot the victims in this case.
The State charged Young with targeting and attempting to kill “Adam” and shooting Adam’s sister, who was standing nearby. At trial, the State asked Adam questions designed to establish that he knew Young’s brother, and he knew that the brother was shot exactly 1 year earlier. The State asked Adam whether he thought that Young blamed him for his brother’s death. Young’s lawyer objected vigorously on the grounds that this “shooting anniversary” evidence was irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. The trial court overruled the objection, and the court of appeals affirmed:
¶23 Contrary to Young’s contention, we conclude that the shooting of November 10, 2012, and November 10, 2013, are connected in several ways. First they occurred on exactly the same date. Adam was a witness at one and the targeted victim of the other. There was evidence that the person who committed this crime specified that he was looking for Adam and did not pull the gun out and start shooting until Adam appeared, and the evidence was that the shooter pointed the gun directly at Adam. The victim of the first shooting was the brother of the alleged shooter in the second. Those connections demonstrate the relevance as to the identity and motive of the person who shot Adam. See Pharr, 115 Wis. 2d at 346 (relevancy determined by “the connection with other facts”).
With respect to prejudice, the court of appeals said, essentially, “Heck, nearly all evidence presented by the State will tend to convince the jury the defendant is guilty.” ¶28. It noted that the “anniversary shooting” evidence could have caused the jury to feel sympathy for Young’s loss. And it highlighted evidence that the shooter rang a door bell, specifically asked for Adam, and then shot him. “These facts make the earlier nexus so highly probative that it was reasonable for the trial court to conclude that the danger of unfair prejudice did not outweigh it.” ¶29.
For good measure, the court of appeals further held that if the trial court erred in admitting the “shooting anniversary” evidence, the error was harmless because the topic was mentioned only once and because the State presented 3 other witnesses who identified Young as the shooter. ¶35.