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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Is Fainting Relevant to Consciousness of Guilt?

Media reporting today on an evidentiary ruling in a high-profile case that might be of particular interest to those currently teaching relevance.  

The prosecution wanted to introduce evidence that the defendant fainted when FBI agents confronted him on his lawn and informed him he was the target of an insider-trading probe.  

The judge excluded the evidence, stating:  

"When an individual who works in the hedge fund industry is approached by the FBI and is accused of having engaged in insider trading in specific stocks and while employed at a specific company, it is likely to be a shocking and highly disturbing event, whether the person is innocent or guilty.”

Certainly a safe ruling that doesn't do any real damage to the prosecution's case (surely, there is better evidence than this!), but as a pure relevance question, isn't there a decent case to be made that fainting in the face of accusation has some ("any") tendency to increase the probability that the defendant knew of his guilt.  And if so, is there some reason we can't trust the jury to properly weigh this type of evidence (403)?  You don't see much case law on fainting, but this reminds me of flight evidence, which courts routinely allow.  

On the other hand, if the defendant had calmly invited the agents in for coffee after being accused, the prosecution would likely have fought to keep that evidence of consciousness of innocence out . . . .

- JB

 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2014/01/is-fainting-relevant-to-consciousness-of-guilt.html

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Comments

Exactly JB. Which goes to show just how dumb this whole area of evidence law is. The underlying presumption is that guilty people tend to react in certain ways that differ markedly from non-guilty people when confronted with the same data. There is not a single shred of scientific evidence to back up this notion.

So I find it difficult to care about quibbles over line drawing in bullshit, pardon the somewhat vulgar metaphor.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 6, 2014 7:42:58 PM

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