EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

EvidenceProf Blog's 3rd Annual Halloween Movie Pick: John McNaughton's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"

It's Halloween again, which means that it's time for EvidenceProf's Blog's third annual Halloween movie pick (after "The Gift" and "Homecoming"). For this year's pick, I'm again digging into the archives from my days reviewing DVDs and pulling out a review. This one is of John McNaughton's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," a film loosely based upon real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, the only man that George W. Bush granted clemency while he was governor.

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October 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't Rock The Boat, Take 2: Supreme Court Of Iowa Opinion Reveals That Iowa And Federal Rules On Subsequent Remedial Measures Aren't That Different

Back in March, I posted an entry about the opinion of the Court of Appeals of Iowa in Scott v. Dutton-Lainson Co., 2009 WL 398488 (Iowa App. 2009), and how it revealed the differences between Federal Rule of Evidence 407 and Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.407. Well, in its recent opinion in Scott v. Dutton-Lainson Co., 2009 WL 3415937 (Iowa 2009), the Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the Court of Appeals of Iowa, revealing that the two rules aren't that different.

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October 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Art Of The Steal: The EvidenceProf Blog Review Of The "White Collar" Pilot

Last Friday, USA aired the pilot of its new series "White Collar." The second episode airs tomorrow at 10/9c. If the pilot is a harbinger of things to come, this might be the rare show that I recommend that law students watch. Here is the EvidenceProf Blog review:  

In the early twentieth century, Upton Sinclair coined the phrase "white collar," and he exposed the New York City white collar criminal in "The Moneychangers," his fictionalized account of the Wall Street panic of 1907. The pilot episode of "White Collar" reveals why it is appropriate, especially in the post-Madoff milieu, that the USA Network show takes its name from the famed muckraker's musings.

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October 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Absence Of Malice: Court Vacates Second Degree Murder Conviction Because Juror Read Dictionary Definitions Of "Malice" To Other Jurors

A man is charged with, among other things, second degree murder, which means that the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the man acted with malice in order for the jury to convict him. Legally,

Malice is a necessary element which distinguishes second degree murder from manslaughter. Malice arises when an act which is inherently dangerous to human life is intentionally done so recklessly and wantonly as to manifest a mind utterly without regard for human life and social duty and deliberately bent on mischief.

Of course, the word malice is also used outside the legal context, with its usual definition being "desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another" or "intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse." 

So, what would happen in the above case if a juror decides to bring a dictionary into the jury room and reads the dictionary definition of malice, with the defendant eventually being convicted of second degree murder? The answer, according to the recent opinion of the United States District Court for the Eastern Middle District of North Carolina in Bauberger v. Haynes, 2009 WL 3450967 (M.D.N.C. 2009), is that the jury can impeach its verdict, leading to the defendant being awarded a new trial.

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October 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Love Letter: Colorado Judge To Determine Admissibility Of Love Note From Ex-Boyfriend In Second Degree Murder Trial

A man allegedly shoots and kills his girlfriend and is charged with second-degree murder. In order to establish the man's motive for the shooting, the prosecution seeks to introduce a love note allegedly written to the girlfriend by an ex-boyfriend. Should the court admit the note, or should it exclude it as inadmissible hearsay? That's the question that a judge in Colorado is about to answer.

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October 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hook Me Up: Court Of Appeals Of Indiana Addresses Admissibility Of Polygraph-Related Statements

There's an odd dichotomy under the Federal Rules of Evidence and state counterparts. Evidence of polygraph test results are per se inadmissible (except in New Mexico) unless both sides stipulate to their admission before the test is taken. Conversely, according to some courts, in some circumstances, a defendant can introduce evidence that he volunteered to take a polygraph test to prove his innocent state of mind. As the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Indiana in Nugent v. State, 2009 WL 3415318 (Ind.App. 2009), noted, however this opens the door for the prosecution to present evidence calling into question just how willing the defendant was to take the test.

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October 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 26, 2009

We The Jury: Eastern District Of Louisiana Finds Rule 606(b) Precludes Jury Impeachment On Issue Of Whether Unanimous Verdict Was Reached

Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) provides that

Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury's deliberations or to the effect of anything upon that or any other juror's mind or emotions as influencing the juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning the juror's mental processes in connection therewith. But a juror may testify about (1) whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention, (2) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, or (3) whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form. A juror's affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror may not be received on a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying.

In Imperial Trading Co., Inc. v. Travelers Property Cas. Co. of America, 2009 WL 2922307 (E.D. La. 2009), the plaintiffs claimed that evidence that the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict fell under the exception contained in subsection (3). They were wrong.

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October 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deflating The Conspiracy Theory: Article Wrongfully Claims That Mother's Admission Will Qualify As Co-Conspirator Admission In Potential "Balloon Boy" Trial

Like its federal counterpart, New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-801(D)(2)(e) defines as nonhearsay "a statement by a co-conspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy." An article in the Examiner yesterday notes regarding the "balloon boy" brouhaha that 

Mayumi Heene told Larimer County investigators that she and her husband, Richard Heene, knew that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, was hiding at their Fort Collins home the entire time, even as police and military scrambled to search for the boy.

The article then concludes that Mayumi's statement to investigators would be admissible in a trial against Richard as a co-conspirator admission. But if you look at the above language from New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-801(D)(2)(e), I think that you can see why this conclusion is wrong.

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October 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)