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State v. Dorsey

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

January 25, 2018

State of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Anton R. Dorsey, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.

          Submitted on Briefs: oral argument: October 23, 2017

         Circuit Eau Claire county Paul J. Lenz Judge.

          For the defendant-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs filed and an oral argument by Frederick A. Bechtold, Taylors Falls, Minnesota.

          For the plaintiff-respondent, there was a brief filed and an oral argument by Tiffany M. Winter, . assistant attorney general, with whom on the brief was Brad D. Schimel, attorney general.

          ANNETTE KINGSLAND ZIEGLER, J.

         ¶1 This is a review of an unpublished decision of the court of appeals, State v. Dorsey, No. 2015AP648-CR, unpublished slip op. (Wis. Ct. App. Dec. 6, 2016) (per curiam), affirming the Eau Claire County circuit court's[1] judgments of conviction for Anton R. Dorsey ("Dorsey") for three crimes related to his domestic violence toward C.B.

         ¶2 In a criminal action by the State, Dorsey was charged with four crimes relating to his domestic violence toward his then-girlfriend, C.B.: one count of strangulation and suffocation under Wis.Stat. § 940.235(1) (2013-14)[2], [3] one count of misdemeanor battery under Wis.Stat. § 940.19(1); one count of disorderly conduct under Wis.Stat. §§ 947.01 and 973.055(1); and one count of aggravated battery under §§ 940.19(6) and 973.055(1). All counts were charged with repeater enhancers.

         ¶3 In the circuit court, the State filed a motion to admit other-acts evidence. Ruling on this motion required the circuit court to interpret, as a matter of first impression, the recently amended language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l. After colloquy with the parties, the circuit court held that the new language allowed the admission of other acts of a defendant in a domestic abuse case with greater latitude under the Sullivan[4]analysis. Given this interpretation, the circuit court admitted the testimony of R.K., a former girlfriend of Dorsey's, who testified to other acts of physical violence committed by Dorsey against her when they were dating in 2011. Postconviction, Dorsey appealed.

         ¶4 The court of appeals affirmed on other grounds. It held that the greater latitude rule did not apply because the text, not the title ("Greater latitude"), controls, and that the text of subd. (2) (b)l. did not indicate any clear legislative intent to adopt the greater latitude rule with regard to other acts of domestic abuse. The court of appeals then evaluated admission of the other-acts evidence under a straight Sullivan analysis and concluded that it was admissible, even without applying greater latitude.

         ¶5 There are two issues on this appeal. First, we consider what standard for admission of other-acts evidence applies under the recently amended language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l. Second, we consider whether the evidence of Dorsey's other acts was properly admitted under § 904.04(2) (b)l. As to the first issue, we conclude that the recently amended language allows admission of other-acts evidence with greater latitude under a Sullivan analysis. As to the second issue, we conclude that the circuit court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in admitting evidence of Dorsey's other acts because the circuit court applied the proper legal standard and admission was a conclusion that a reasonable judge could reach based on the facts of the record.

         ¶6 Thus, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals on other grounds.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶7 The State charged Dorsey with the following four crimes: (1) strangulation and suffocation under Wis.Stat. § 940.235(1), for intentionally impeding normal breathing by applying pressure on the throat or neck of another person; (2) misdemeanor battery under Wis.Stat. § 940.19(1), for intending to cause bodily harm to C.B., without her consent and with the knowledge that she did not consent; (3) disorderly conduct under Wis.Stat. §§ 947.01(1) and 973.055(1), for engaging in violent, abusive, or otherwise disorderly conduct, under circumstances in which such conduct tended to cause a disturbance; and (4) aggravated battery under §§ 940.19(6) and 973.055(1), for intentionally causing bodily harm to C.B. by conduct that created a substantial risk of great bodily harm.[5] Dorsey entered pleas of not guilty and the case was set for a jury trial.

         ¶8 Before trial, the State filed a motion to introduce evidence of Dorsey's two convictions for domestic battery from 2011 for other acts of domestic violence toward a former girlfriend, R.K., arguing that such evidence was admissible to prove intent to cause bodily harm under the recently amended[6]Wis. Stat. § 904.04 (2) (b)l., [7] which states as follows:

(b) Greater Latitude. 1. In a criminal proceeding alleging a violation of s. 940.302(2) or of ch. 948, alleging the commission of a serious sex offense, as defined in s. 939.615(1) (b), or of domestic abuse, as defined in s. 968.075(1) (a), or alleging an offense that, following a conviction, is subject to the surcharge in s. 973.055, evidence of any similar acts by the accused is admissible, and is admissible without regard to whether the victim of the crime that is the subject of the proceeding is the same as the victim of the similar act. Wis.Stat. § 904.04 (2) (b)l.[8] The State argued that this other-acts evidence was admissible under the now-familiar three-step analysis promulgated in State v. Sullivan, 216

Wis.2d 768, 576 N.W.2d 30');">576 N.W.2d 30 (1998): other-acts evidence is admissible if (1) it is offered for a permissible purpose under § 904.04(2)(a), [9] (2) it is relevant under § 904.01, [10] and (3) its probative value is not substantially[11] outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice under § 904.03.[12] See Sullivan, 216 Wis.2d at 772-73.

         ¶9 Under the first prong, the State argued that the evidence was offered "to establish the defendant's intent and motive to cause bodily harm to his victim and to control her within the context of a domestic relationship." Under the second prong, the State argued that the evidence was relevant because it established Dorsey's intent and motive, which were facts of consequence, and that the other acts were near enough in time, place, and circumstances to have a tendency to make the facts of intent and motive more probable. Under the third prong, the State noted that the defendant bore the burden to show that the probative value is substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice and argued that a cautionary jury instruction would ensure that the jury only considered the evidence for the proffered purpose, thereby avoiding any unfair prejudice.

         ¶10 On August 26, 2014, the circuit court held a hearing on the State's motion. During the hearing, the court heard arguments from the parties as to the proper interpretation of the new language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l. The circuit court ultimately held that the amended language "provid[es] greater latitude . . . similar ... to the serious sex offense business and making it available more to be able to be used in the case in chief than [the court] would provide."

         ¶11 The circuit court then allowed the evidence to be admitted, holding that "using that greater latitude [, ] the three-prong analysis of Sullivan is met." Under the first prong, the court held that intent and motive to control were permissible purposes.[13] Under the second prong, the court held that the other acts were relevant "because [] the similarity, the motive to control, " which although "not very, very, very near in time, [was] within two years and in a period of time in which the clock kind of stops ticking a little bit because the defendant [was] on probation for a period of that time." Additionally, the court held that "the clear statutory language indicates that it does not need to involve the same victim." Under the third prong, the court held that the probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, and that a cautionary instruction would ensure that this information goes "only to evaluate the defendant's motive and intent."

         ¶12 On August 28, 2014, trial began. At trial, the State's primary witness was C.B., the victim. C.B. testified that she and Dorsey started dating in June of 2013. As to count one, for strangulation and suffocation, C.B. testified that, on the night of October 11-12, 2013, she and Dorsey got into an argument about money on their way home from a bar after a night out with friends. She felt that "all [she was] good for [was] money" and told him "[t]his is done. This isn't a healthy relationship. I'm not happy." He then pulled the car over, locked the doors, pushed her head against the window, and demanded to know "is there someone else? Do you have someone else? Is that why you don't want me here?" She testified that she was able to get out of the car and that she had started walking toward her house when he came up behind her, but she did not remember anything else until waking up on the ground with him saying, "[y]ou aren't F-ing doing this to me."

         ¶13 As to count two, for misdemeanor battery, C.B. testified that, in December of 2013, she could not remember exactly what had started the argument and caused Dorsey to be upset with her, but she remembered telling him that she "didn't want to talk to him . . . right now" and rolled over in the bed to face away from him. He responded by saying "[n]o, we're going to talk about this, " and turned her back to face him by grabbing her hip; he then flicked her lip with his finger, splitting it open and causing it to bleed. C.B. testified that Dorsey then threw a tissue box at her for her bloody lip. He was saying, "I don't know why you lie to me, why you lie ... to me all the time, " to which C.B. responded that she did not know what he was upset about. He then grabbed her by the waist, bringing her toward him, pulled her hair to make her look up at him because "he likes to have eye contact, " and spit in her face.

         ¶14 As to counts three and four, for disorderly conduct and aggravated battery, C.B. testified that on March 11, 2014, she and Dorsey were in the parking lot of a bar when Dorsey got upset after he saw that she had been texting a man he did not like. (Dorsey had grabbed C.B.'s phone from her during an argument about her talking to her ex.) She testified that Dorsey accused her of sleeping with this other man and that she just kept telling him "[n]o, it's not like that. He's just a friend." She got out of the car and tried to catch the attention of someone in an office next to the bar because she was afraid of getting hit. Dorsey got out saying, "[d]on't you dare, don't you dare, " and came up behind her, grabbed her, and pushed her up against the side of the building demanding to know "[w]hy are you doing this?" A few people then came out into the parking lot and Dorsey told her to get back in the car.

         ¶15 Nothing more happened that night, but C.B. testified that when she woke up the next morning, Dorsey was leaning over her just inches from her face and said, "I can't believe you're doing this, that you keep doing this." She started getting ready for work, but before she could leave, Dorsey told her to sit down, that they "were going to talk about this." She testified that she sat down on the bed and that right away he hit her and said, "I don't believe that you're doing this." When she tried to move away, he grabbed her hair, pulled her back, and hit her in the head again. C.B. testified that her head was ringing and she felt sick to her stomach, that she told him she had to go to work, but that he kept hitting her. Dorsey relented when C.B. told him that she had a meeting and that if she was not there "they're going to wonder what's going on, and they will send someone to the house." He then threw her phone at her chest; she took it, ran down the stairs, grabbed her keys, and got out the door and into her car.

         ¶16 The State also called R.K., a former girlfriend of Dorsey's. R.K.'s testimony regarding Dorsey's violent acts toward her is the focus of Dorsey's appeal. At trial, R.K. testified about two incidents that took place in 2011.[14] The first was in June of 2011, when R.K. was six months pregnant. R.K. testified that she had asked Dorsey to take a paternity test so that he could not later claim that their child was not his. He became upset, thinking that the real reason she wanted the test was that she was not sure who the father was. He left, but when he came back later that night he was yelling and swearing and calling her names; he flicked a lit cigarette butt at her and tried to leave in her car. When she got in the passenger side to stop him from taking the car, he pushed her out while backing out of the driveway. She then testified that, when Dorsey came back later, he yelled some more, dragged her out of the house by her feet, causing bruising to her abdomen, and locked her out of her house.

         ¶17 The second incident was in November of 2011. R.K. testified that Dorsey had become upset because he felt she did not respect him. He asked her to leave, and R.K. testified that she was going to go because he was sitting on the couch feeding their daughter and she "didn't want things to escalate." As she was walking out the door, he took the bottle out of their daughter's mouth and threw it at R.K., and then threw a shoe at R.K. He then asked R.K. to come back in the house, and when she came back in, he locked the door, began yelling at her, pushed her down to the ground, and started hitting her in the head with a shoe and kicking her in the back repeatedly. R.K. testified that when Dorsey stopped "after a while" and went into the kitchen, she took their daughter, ran out to the car, and drove to her mother's house.

         ¶18 Dorsey's defense was that these witnesses were making false allegations and that the acts never happened. As to C.B., he testified that he did not remember having a physical altercation where he grabbed her around the neck; that he had never tried to prevent C.B. from leaving the house; and that her injuries in March were because she had slipped in the shower. As to R.K., Dorsey initially testified that he never spat on her; that he never threw a shoe or baby bottle at her; and that he never dragged her out of the house when she was six months pregnant. Outside the presence of the jury, the State then sought to introduce his convictions for these incidents to impeach his testimony; the circuit court denied the request, accepting Dorsey's explanation that "he misunderstood exactly how he was supposed to respond." When asked again (in the presence of the jury), Dorsey admitted that, in June of 2011, he spat on R.K. and dragged her out of the house when she was six months pregnant because he had been upset that the baby was possibly not his; and that, in November of 2011, he threw a shoe and a baby bottle at R.K., prevented her from leaving their apartment, and hit her because he felt that R.K. had not been respecting him.

         ¶19 At the close of evidence, the circuit court instructed the jury. As pertains to the issue here, the court gave a cautionary jury instruction regarding other acts:

Evidence has been presented regarding other conduct of the defendant for which the defendant is not on trial.
Specifically, evidence has been presented that the defendant committed a battery of [R.K.] in June and November of 2011. If you find that this conduct did occur, you should consider it only on the issue of motive and intent.
You may not consider this evidence to conclude that the defendant has a certain character or certain character trait and that the defendant acted in conformity with that trait or character with respect to the offense charged in this case.
Evidence was received on the issues of motive, that is, whether the defendant had the reason to desire the result of the offense charged, and intent, that is, whether the defendant acted with the state of mind that is required for the offense charged.
You may consider this evidence only for the purposes I have described, giving it the weight you determine it deserves. It is not to be used to conclude that the defendant is a bad person and for that reason is guilty of the offense charged. [15]

         ¶20 On August 28, 2014, the jury found Dorsey not guilty on count one, [16] but found Dorsey guilty on counts two through four.[17] The circuit court sentenced Dorsey on October 24, 2014, [18]and entered the judgments of conviction on October 27, 2014.

         ¶21 On March 30, 2015, Dorsey filed notice of appeal. On December 6, 2016, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court on other grounds. Contrary to the circuit court, the court of appeals held that the greater latitude rule did not apply because the "text must control over [the] title" and "[t]he text of Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)1. does not indicate any clear legislative intent to make the greater latitude rule, as developed through our state's case law, now applicable to domestic abuse cases." Dorsey, unpublished slip op., ¶22. Instead, the court of appeals held that the other acts were admissible under a straight Sullivan analysis: first, the evidence was offered for the permissible purpose of proving intent and motive "to control [C.B.] within the context of a domestic relationship, " id., ¶¶25-27, 29; second, the evidence was relevant because intent is an element of any crime and is thus "of consequence, " even if undisputed, and the other acts were similar enough in time, [19] place, and circumstances that they had probative value, id., ¶¶34-37; third, Dorsey did not satisfy his burden to show that the probative value was substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice because Dorsey conceded there were similarities, the evidence was "highly probative of intent, " and "any prejudicial effect could be mitigated by the use of [a] cautionary instruction, " id., ¶43.

         ¶22 On January 3, 2017, Dorsey filed a petition for review in this court. On April 10, 2017, we granted the petition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶23 Determining what standard for admission of other-acts evidence applies under the recently amended language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2)(b)l. requires us to interpret the statute. "The interpretation and application of a statute present questions of law that this court reviews de novo while benefitting from the analyses of the court of appeals and circuit court." State v. Alger, 2015 WI 3, ¶21, 360 Wis.2d 193, 858 N.W.2d 346.

         ¶24 Determining whether the evidence of Dorsey's other acts was properly admitted under Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l. requires us to review an exercise of discretion by the circuit court. See State v. Jackson, 2014 WI 4, ¶43, 352 Wis.2d 249, 841 N.W.2d 791 ("This court will not disturb a circuit court's decision to admit or exclude evidence unless the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion."). "A circuit court erroneously exercises its discretion if it applies an improper legal standard or makes a decision not reasonably supported by the facts of record." Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         ¶25 There are two issues on this appeal. First, we consider what standard for admission of other-acts evidence applies under the recently amended language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l. Second, we consider whether the evidence of Dorsey's other acts was properly admitted under § 904.04(2) (b)l. As to the first issue, we conclude that the recently amended language allows admission of other-acts evidence with greater latitude under a Sullivan analysis. As to the second issue, we conclude that the circuit court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in admitting evidence of Dorsey's other acts because the circuit court applied the proper legal standard and admission was a conclusion that a reasonable judge could reach based on the facts of the record.

         A. What Standard For Admission Of Other-Acts Evidence Applies Under Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l.

         ¶26 We consider first what standard for admission of other-acts evidence applies under the recently amended language in Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2)(b)l. Dorsey argues that a straight Sullivan analysis applies, that is, that the statute does not afford circuit courts greater latitude to admit other-acts evidence of domestic abuse. The State argues that the amended language should be interpreted one of two ways: one, under the common law greater latitude rule, as affording circuit courts greater latitude to admit other, similar acts of domestic abuse in a Sullivan analysis; or two, under a plain language interpretation, as allowing circuit courts to admit other, similar acts of domestic abuse without requiring a permissible purpose (which is required under the first prong of Sullivan). We conclude that the recently amended language allows for the admission of other, similar acts of domestic abuse with greater latitude under a Sullivan analysis.[20]

         ¶27 "[S]tatutory interpretation begins with the language of the statute." State ex rel. Kalal v. Cir. Ct. for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58, ¶45, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110. Wisconsin Stat. § 904.04(2), entitled "Other crimes, wrongs, or acts, " states, in relevant part, as follows:

(a) General admissibility. Except as provided in par. (b)2., evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts, is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith. This subsection does not exclude the evidence when offered for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
(b) Greater latitude. 1. In a criminal proceeding alleging a violation of s. 940.302(2) or of ch. 948, alleging the commission of a serious sex offense, as defined in s. 939.615(1) (b), or of domestic abuse, as defined in s. 968.075(1) (a), [21] or alleging an offense that, following a conviction, is subject to the surcharge in s. 973.055, evidence of any similar acts by the accused is admissible, and is admissible without regard to whether the victim of the crime that is the subject of the proceeding is the same as the victim of the similar act.

§ 904.04(2)(a), (b)l. (footnote added).

         ¶28 "If the meaning of the statute is plain, we ordinarily stop the inquiry." Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶45. As argued by the State, under a plain language interpretation of Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2) (b)l., the court could hold that evidence of other, similar[22] acts by the accused is admissible, even if the acts relate to a different victim, if the similar acts are offered in a criminal proceeding that alleges (1) a violation of Wis.Stat. § 940.302(2); (2) a violation of Wis.Stat. ch. 948; (3) the commission of a serious sex offense, as defined in Wis.Stat. § 939.615(1)(b); (4) the commission of domestic abuse, as defined in Wis.Stat. § 968.075(1) (a); or (5) an offense that, following conviction, is subject to the surcharge in Wis.Stat. § 973.055. The plain meaning interpretation would thus allow circuit courts to admit evidence of other, similar acts without regard to its purpose, even if the purpose is to show "that the person acted in conformity therewith, " (i.e., propensity). § 904.04 (2) (a) .[23]

         ¶29 Subdivision (2)(b)l. must, however, be interpreted "in the context in which it is used; not in isolation but as part of a whole." Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶46. And this plain language interpretation of subd. (2) (b)l. contradicts the plain language of para. (2) (a) . Paragraph (2) (a) only excepts subd. (2) (b)2.- not subd. (2) (b)l.-from its general prohibition on the use of other acts "to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith." Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2)(a). Where a specific exception is made, it implies that no other exceptions are intended. See Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 107-11 (2012) ("The expression of one thing implies the exclusion of others (expressio unius est exclusio alterius)."). Thus, we cannot read subd. (2) (b)l. as an exception to para. (2)(a)'s general prohibition on propensity.

         ¶30 This results in ambiguity with regard to the meaning of subd. (2) (b)l. See Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶47 ("[A] statute is ambiguous if it is capable of being understood by reasonably well-informed persons in two or more senses.") . If the plain language of a statute is ambiguous as to meaning, we consider the scope, context, and purpose of the statute. Id., ¶¶48-49. In this regard, the title of subd. (2) (b)l., "Greater latitude, " is instructive. As a preliminary matter, we note that "[t]itles . . . are not part of the statutes, " Wis.Stat. § 990.001(6), but are "permissible indicators of meaning . . . for the purpose of . . . relieving [] ambiguity, " Scalia & Garner, supra ¶29, at 221-22. See also Aiello v. Vill. of Pleasant Prairie, 206 Wis.2d 68, 73, 556 N.W.2d 697 (1996) ("Although titles are not part of statutes, . . . they may be helpful in interpretation."). As noted above, there is ambiguity with regard to the meaning of subd. (2) (b)l., thus, reference to its title is appropriate here.

         ¶31 In the context of its title, "Greater latitude, " we interpret subd. (2) (b)l. as adopting the common law greater latitude rule to permit the admission of other, similar acts of domestic abuse with greater latitude. "All words and phrases shall be construed according to common and approved usage; but technical words and phrases and others that have a peculiar meaning in the law shall be construed according to such meaning." Wis.Stat. § 990.01(1); see also Scalia & Garner, supra ¶29, at 320 ("A statute that uses a common-law term, without defining it, adopts its common-law meaning.") Here, "greater latitude" is a technical term defined in the common law that deals with admission of other-acts evidence, thus it "shall be construed according to such meaning." § 990.01(1) .

         ¶32 Under the common law, the greater latitude rule allows for more liberal admission of other-acts evidence. See, e.g., State v. Hurley, 2015 WI 35, ¶59, 361 Wis.2d 529, 861 N.W.2d 174');">861 N.W.2d 174. It has traditionally been applied in cases of sexual abuse, particularly those involving children. See, e.g., id. Its application in this context dates back to 1893, and it has been so-applied in hundreds of cases since. See Proper v. State, 85 Wis. 615, 630, 55 N.W. 1035 (1893) ("A greater latitude of proof as to other like occurrences is allowed in cases of sexual crimes."). Thus, the term "greater latitude" is a term of art in the context of other-acts evidence and its application is well-established in the common law.

         ¶33 The greater latitude rule has been described as operating to "facilitate[] the admissibility of the other acts evidence under the exceptions set forth in [Wis. Stat.] § 904.04 (2) [ (a) ] ." State v. Hammer, 2000 WI 92, ¶23, 236 Wis.2d 686, 613 N.W.2d 629');">613 N.W.2d 629 (citing Hendrickson v. State, 61 Wis.2d 275, 279, 212 N.W.2d 481 (1973)). And indeed, after Sullivan, which set out the standard for admission of other-acts evidence under para. (2) (a), we clarified that the greater latitude rule is to be applied within the Sullivan analysis (which requires a (2) (a) permissible purpose under the first prong) . See State v. Davidson, 2000 WI 91, ¶51, 236 Wis.2d 537, 613 N.W.2d 606. Application of the greater latitude rule, however, is not limited to any one prong. See id. Thus, for the types of cases enumerated under Wis.Stat. § 904.04(2)(b)l., circuit courts should admit evidence of other acts with greater latitude under the Sullivan analysis to facilitate its use for a permissible purpose.[24]

         ¶34 Before concluding our interpretation of the statute, we note that adopting Dorsey's interpretation would render subd. (2)(b)l. superfluous. Dorsey argues that a straight Sullivan analysis applies, that is, that circuit courts are not permitted greater latitude to admit evidence of other acts in domestic abuse cases. A straight Sullivan analysis, however, is what circuit courts apply when a party seeks to introduce other-acts evidence under para. (2)(a). Sullivan, 216 Wis.2d at 772-73. Before the statute was amended, this was the proper standard for admission of other acts of domestic abuse, and, in fact, before the amendment, the State did seek to introduce other acts of domestic abuse under para. (2) (a) . See, e.g., Sullivan, 216 Wis.2d 768. But the addition of subd. (2) (b)l. provided a specific standard for admission of other acts of domestic abuse. Thus, to hold that a straight Sullivan analysis is still the proper standard for admission would render the legislature's enactment of subd. (2) (b)l. meaningless. This we cannot do. See Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶46 ("Statutory language is read where possible to give reasonable effect to every word, in order to avoid surplusage."); Scalia & Garner, supra ¶29, at 174-79 ("If possible, every word and every provision is to be given effect (verba cum effectu sunt accipienda). None should be ignored. None should needlessly be given an interpretation that causes it to duplicate another provision or to have no consequence." (Footnote omitted.)).

         ¶35 In sum, we conclude that Wis.Stat. § 904.04 (2) (b) 1. permits circuit courts to admit evidence of other, similar acts of domestic abuse with greater latitude, as that standard has been defined in the common law, under Sullivan, because it is the most reasonable interpretation in light of the context and purpose of the statute. See Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶46 (" [S]tatutory language is interpreted in the context in which it is used . . . and reasonably, to avoid absurd or unreasonable results.") . As a practical matter, not only does our analysis afford due respect to the words of this legislation, but maintaining the well-established Sullivan analysis, with greater ...


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