EvidenceProf Blog

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

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Are Rule 803 Hearsay Statements More Reliable Than Rule 804 Hearsay Statements?

As I was reviewing the Advisory Committee's Notes to Federal Rules of Evidence 803 and 804 yesterday, I came across something that I have never noticed before. And what I noticed has led me to ask the following question: Are statements falling under a Rule 803 exception generally thought to be more reliable than statements falling under a Rule 804 exception?

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May 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Know Thy Enemy: How the Jodi Arias Trial Differed From the George Zimmerman Trial With Regard to Character Evidence

In yesterday's post, I argued that George ZImmerman should not be able to present evidence of specific instances of violent conduct by Trayvon Martin to support his claim of self-defense. In response, Rick Underwood left the following two comments:

1. Great. But that's not what happened in the Jodi Arias case. It all depends on who the defendant is!

Any comment?

2. The point of my previous post was that the Jodi Arias defense was self-defense. Then it morphed into "the guy was nasty" and "abusive." The defendant said whatever she wanted to (apparently nobody believed it). There seemed to be no rules of evidence involved. The expert testimony was pathetic.

Of course, the bottom line is that when death is on the table, the rules get thrown out. Maybe ok and maybe not.

I do agree with your analysis. It is spot on. My point is the the rules don't seem to matter in some cases with some defendants.

So, let's take a look at the Jodi Arias case and the Arizona Rules of Evidence.

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May 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Character of the Matter George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin & the Intricacies of Character Evidence

Section 90.404 of the Florida Statutes generally precludes parties from presenting propensity character evidence, such as evidence that a defendant on trial for robbery had committed a prior robbery ("once a robber, always a robber"). That said, Section 90.404(1)(b)1. of the Florida Statutes contains a so-called "mercy rule," pursuant to which a criminal defendant can open Pandora's box and present evidence of the alleged victim's bad character for a pertinent character trait. The consequence of presenting such character evidence, however, is that the prosecution can respond by presenting (1) evidence of the alleged victim's good character for that same trait; and/or (2) evidence of the defendant's bad character for that same trait.

In the build up to his murder trial, George Zimmerman has attempted to get the trial judge to deem admissible evidence of Trayvon Martin's violent past. How should the court rule?

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May 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Hell & Back: Court of Appeals of Kentucky Finds No Error With Rejected Stipulation

According to the Legal Dictionary,

During the course of a civil lawsuit, criminal proceeding, or any other type of litigation, the opposing attorneys may come to an agreement about certain facts and issues. Such an agreement is called a stipulation. Courts look with favor on stipulations because they save time and simplify the matters that must be resolved

Sometimes, parties agree on a stipulation without any goading by the court. For instance, the prosecution and defense might agree to stipulate that the alleged victim was a minor in a statutory rape case, with the only dispute being whether the defendant engaged in prohibited sexual acts with that minor. In other cases, one party wants to stipulate to a certain fact, the other party wants to prove that fact through evidence/testimony, and the court has to decide whether the stipulation is preferable.

Probably the most famous example of this latter situation is Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997), in which the defendant was charged with being a former felon in possession of a firearm. The defense wanted to stipulate that the defendant was a former felon. The prosecution wanted to prove this prior felony conviction through evidence/testimony. The district court allowed the prosecution to present its evidence/testimony, and the Supreme Court later reversed the defendant's conviction, finding that the stipulation would have told the jury all that it needed to know: that the defendant was a former felon. So, why didn't the Court of Appeals of Kentucky reach a similar conclusion in Anglin v. Commonwealth, 2013 WL 2257829 (Ky.App. 2013)?

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May 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gone Fishin': Can an Affidavit Ever Qualify as a Present Sense Impression?

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(1) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A statement describing or explaining an event or condition, made while or immediately after the declarant perceived it.

Can an affidavit qualify as a "present sense impression" under Rule 803(1)? According to dicta in Catfish Farmers of America v. United States, 2013 WL 2250601 (CIT 2013), the answer is "yes." I disagree.

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May 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)