EvidenceProf Blog

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

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raising Arizona: Second Circuit Finds Statement Against Interest Was Properly Admitted To Prove Interstate Component Of Hobbs Act Violation

The Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1951(a), provides that

Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Usually, the fact that a defendant was charged with violating the Hobbs Act would not play a factor in an evidentiary ruling. But the fact that the defendants were charged with violating the Act possibly played a large role in an evidentiry ruling in United States v. White, 2010 WL 1461645 (2nd Cir. 2010).

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April 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eyewitness Account: Supreme Court Of Louisiana Precludes Expert Testimony On Inaccuracy Of Eyewitness Identifications

I have done several posts on this blog (here, here, here, here, here, and here) about the inaccuracy of regular and cross-racial eyewitness identifications and whether expert testimony about this inaccuracy should be allowed. In a recent post, I noted that "My general sense is that most courts allow such expert testimony although a decent number of courts, such as the Eleventh Circuit and Minnesota courts, preclude it." That post addressed a recent opinion in which the Supreme Court of Utah reversed past precedent and allow for the admission of expert testimony on the inaccuracy of eyewitness identifications. This post addresses a recent opinion, State v. Young, 2010 WL 1286933 (La. 2010), in which the Supreme Court of Louisiana adhered to prior precedent and refused to allow for the admission of expert testimony on the inaccuracy of eyewitness identifications.

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April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Event Horizon: Eighth Circuit Finds District Court Failed To Identify Entirety Of Startling Event For Excited Utterance Purposes

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(2), the excited utterance exception, provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A statement relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition.

Absent an abuse of discretion, an appellate court will not reverse a trial court's ruling under the excited utterance exception. In its recent opinion in Brunsting v. Lutsen Mountains Corp., 2010 WL 1440350 (8th Cir. 2010), however, the Eighth Circuit found just such an abuse of discretion. And one of its reasons for doing so was that the district court failed to identify the entirety of the startling event for excited utterance purposes, which, according to the Eighth Circuit includes not just the underlying startling event, but its aftermath.

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April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Show Me Case: Missouri Court Of Appeals Finds Subsequent Remedial Measure Rule Applies To Inverse Condemnation Cases

Federal Rule of Evidence 407 provides that

When, after an injury or harm allegedly caused by an event, measures are taken that, if taken previously, would have made the injury or harm less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove negligence, culpable conduct, a defect in a product, a defect in a product's design, or a need for a warning or instruction.  This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of subsequent measures when offered for another purpose, such as proving ownership, control, or feasibility of precautionary measures, if controverted, or impeachment.

Missouri doesn't have codified rules of evidence (and while the Missouri constitution authorizes the Supreme Court of Missouri to create rules, that authorization specifically excludes rules of evidence). That said, Missouri courts have in effect applied Federal Rule of Evidence 407 in their precedent, and in its recent opinion in Rader Family Ltd. Partnership, L.L.L.P. v. City of Columbia, 2009 WL 1439017 (Mo.App. W.D. 2010), the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, found that the exclusionary portion of this Rule applies in nuisance cases generally and inverse condemnation cases specifically.

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April 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Forgive Me Father, Take 2: Supreme Court Of New Jersey Reverses Cleric-Penitent Privilege Ruling

Back in August 2008, I posted an entry about State v. J.G., 2008 WL 3850772 (N.J.Super.A.D. 2008), in which the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division reversed a trial court's decision to apply New Jersey's cleric-penitent privilege in the case of a man accused of sexually molesting his daughters. In response to the court's ruling, I wrote, "I agree with the court's conclusion but not its reasoning." Well, after the appellate division ruled against the defendant, he appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and that court disagreed both with the appellate division's reasoning and its conclusion in its recent opinion in State v. J.G., 2010 WL 1328844 (N.J. 2010).   

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April 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Follow My Voice: Seventh Circuit Notes "Minimal Familiarity" Standard Under Rule 901(b)(5) But Still Reverses

Federal Rule of Evidence 901(b)(5) provides the following as an example of proper authentication:

Identification of a voice, whether heard firsthand or through mechanical or electronic transmission or recording, by opinion based upon hearing the voice at any time under circumstances connecting it with the alleged speaker.  

And as the recent opinion in United States v. Jones, 2010 WL 1337741 (7th Cir. 2010), makes clear, the Seventh Circuit (like several other circuits) merely requires that the witness identifying the speaker's voice to have "minimal familiarity" with the speaker's voice. But the prosecution could not even satisfy this standard in Jones.

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April 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pleading Out: Court Of Appeals Of North Carolina Deems Defendant's Statement To Judge During Plea Hearing Admissible

North Carolina Rule of Evidence 410(4) indicates that

Except as otherwise provided in this rule, evidence of the following is not, in any civil or criminal proceeding, admissible for or against the defendant who made the plea or was a participant in the plea discussions....Any statement made in the course of plea discussions with an attorney for the prosecuting authority which do not result in a plea of guilty or which result in a plea of guilty later withdrawn.

So, let's say that there is a hearing before at trial judge during which the prosecutor offers the defendant a plea bargain. The defendant then addresses the trial judge, admits complicity in the crime, and asks if the judge would impose a lesser sentence than that offered by the prosecutor. The trial judge refuses and allows the defendant to discuss the plea bargain with his counsel over the evening recess. The next day, the defendant rejects the plea bargain. Should the statement of complicity be admissible? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of North Carolina in State v. Haymond, 2010 WL 1286897 (N.C. App. 2010), the answer is "Yes." I disagree.

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April 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)