The Sixth Circuit has just released the case of United States v. Corsmier, in which the Court overturned the conviction, and remanded for a new trial, of an FPD client based upon the admission of improper 404(b) evidence.
The defendant was charged with mortgage fraud type offenses. At trial, the Government introduced, over objection by the defense, evidence that the defendant had accepted cocaine from a co-conspirator on several occasions.
In overturning the conviction, the Court found "The evidence of this occasional provision of small amounts of cocaine may not have any probative value at all. Whatever minimal probative value it may have, however, is surely outweighed by the prejudicial effect of admitting the evidence."
"The cocaine evidence muddied the image of a successful businesswomen that
Defendant hoped to paint. The dissent argues that the cocaine evidence is less
prejudicial because she was not charged with drug use. We disagree. Illegal drug use
not only indicates a propensity to use drugs but a willingness to break laws. Defendant
undoubtedly participated in a fraudulent scheme; the only question is whether she did
so knowingly. The cocaine evidence indicates to a jury that she was not only willing to
break the law but to do so with her alleged co-conspirator, Harris. Such a showing is
highly prejudicial and would outweigh any de minimus probative value the cocaine
evidence may have. For these reasons, the evidence was improperly admitted, and we
must remand for a new trial."