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Probative Value vs. Prejudicial Effect, § 904.03 – Extraneous Misconduct – Cautionary Instruction

State v. John P. Hunt, 2003 WI 81, reversing unpublished order of court of appeals
For Hunt: Rex R. Anderegg


¶72. In determining whether a piece of evidence is unfairly prejudicial, we have held that cautionary instructions help to limit any unfair prejudice that might otherwise result. Plymesser, 172 Wis. 2d at 596-97.¶73. Contrary to Hunt’s argument and the court of appeals’ decision, the circuit court offered proper cautionary instructions on the other-acts evidence. Accordingly, any unfair prejudicial effect caused by the admittance of the other-acts evidence was substantially mitigated by the circuit court’s cautionary instructions to the jury.

¶74. As noted before, the circuit court’s cautionary instructions to the jury specifically told the jurors that they should not conclude from the evidence that the defendant has a certain character or a certain character trait and that the defendant acted in conformity with that trait or character. After listing proper purposes for which the jury could consider the other-acts evidence, the circuit court specifically instructed the jury that it should not conclude from the other-acts evidence that the defendant was a “bad person.”


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