Friday, July 12, 2013
George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin & The Admissibility of Computer Generated Animations as Demonstrative Evidence
One of the big issues in the now-concluding George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin trial was whether the defense would be able to admit an animation depicting the fatal fight between Zimmerman and Martin. Unsurprisingly, the court concluded that the animation would be inadmissible as substantive evidence to prove that the animation in fact accurately depicted how the fight occurred. The court, however, did deem the animation admissible as demonstrative evidence. As I have noted before,
In contrast to testimonial or documentary evidence, demonstrative evidence is "principally used to illustrate or explain other testimonial, documentary or real proof, or judicially noticed fact. It is, in short, a visual (or other) sensory aid." A diagram of the scene of a crime drawn on a board by a percipient witness who is present at trial to testify would be classic demonstrative evidence. Whereas the diagram illustrates the witness' testimony, it should, technically speaking, add nothing further. In this way and despite its title as "evidence," demonstrative evidence is more of a visual aid than evidence per se because it merely illustrates or "demonstrate[s]" a witness' testimony. Jessica M. Silbey, Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence, 37 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 493, 503 (2004).
Perhaps the most (in)famous example of demonstrative evidence was the failed glove experiment in the O.J. Simpson trial.
Beginning in the 1990s, courts began to set forth tests governing the admissibility of computer animations and other computer generated evidence (CGE), and that's exactly when the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, decided Pierce v. State, 671 So.2d 186 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. 1996).
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Federal Rule of Evidence 803(19) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for
A reputation among a person’s family by blood, adoption, or marriage — or among a person’s associates or in the community — concerning the person’s birth, adoption, legitimacy, ancestry, marriage, divorce, death, relationship by blood, adoption, or marriage, or similar facts of personal or family history.
Meanwhile, Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(4) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay if an unavailable declarant makes
A statement about:
(A) the declarant’s own birth, adoption, legitimacy, ancestry, marriage, divorce, relationship by blood, adoption, or marriage, or similar facts of personal or family history, even though the declarant had no way of acquiring personal knowledge about that fact; or
(B) another person concerning any of these facts, as well as death, if the declarant was related to the person by blood, adoption, or marriage or was so intimately associated with the person’s family that the declarant’s information is likely to be accurate.
It is rare to see a court discuss either of these hearsay exceptions. But, in Porter v. Quaranttillo, 2013 WL 3368888 (2nd Cir. 2013), the Second Circuit discussed both.
Monday, July 8, 2013
The recent opinion of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Dingman v. Cart Shield USA, LLC, 2013 WL 3353835 (S.D.Fla. 2013), addresses three interesting questions under Federal Rule of Evidence 609: (1) are convictions resulting from nolo contendere pleas potentially admissible under Rule 609; (2) is a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender a crime of dishonesty or false statement under Rule 609(a)(2); (3) and should a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender be admissible under Rule 609(a)(1)?