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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Gotta Be the Shoes: Court of Appeals of Texas Finds Dallas Cowboys Reeboks Properly Authenticated

Texas Rule of Evidence 901(a) provides that

The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.

In turn, Texas Rule of Evidence 901(b)(1) provides that

By way of illustration only, and not by way of limitation, the following are examples of authentication or identification conforming with the requirements of this rule:  

(1) Testimony of witness with knowledge. Testimony that a matter is what it is claimed to be.

And, as the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston, in Dominguez v. State, 2014 WL 2582975 (Tex.App.-Houston [1 Dist.] 2014), makes clear, a witness can authenticate an exhibit by testifying that she saw the exhibit at earlier time and recognized it.

In Dominguez, Rodolfo Dominguez was convicted by a Fort Bend County jury of capital murder in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. One key piece of

evidence linking Dominguez to the murder scene was a shoe print on the door of Leal's home. At first, the police analyzed a pair of boots belonging to Dominguez, but they did not match the print. It was not until the following year that the police came into possession of Dominguez's Dallas Cowboys Reebok shoes, which are white with the word "Cowboys" written on the side in blue print.  

Dominguez had been living with Garcia's daughter, Estella, at the time of the murders. In the beginning of the police investigation, Estella told the police that Dominguez often wore a pair of Dallas Cowboys Reebok shoes that she had given him for Christmas four months earlier, but the police were unable to locate them. It was not until several months later that Estella found the shoes.

Specifically, Estella testified that

A couple months later, she found the Dallas Cowboys shoes still in her trunk. Realizing that the police were looking for the shoes that she had already described to them, she contacted the police department and informed them that she had found the shoes. Several months after that, the police retrieved the shoes from her.

After he was convicted, Dominguez appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the shoes were not properly authenticated. The Court of Appeals of Texas disagreed, finding that Estella's

testimony was sufficient to permit the trial court to reasonably believe that a jury reasonably could find that the exhibit was what the State claimed it to be—the shoes Dominguez owned. TEX.R. EVID. 901; see Druery, 225 S.W.3d at 502; Jackson, 968 S.W.2d at 500 (permitting witness to authenticate exhibit by testifying that she saw exhibit at earlier time and recognized it). To the extent Dominguez complains that the shoes were kept in the daughter's apartment for several months before being given to the police, that the daughter moved in the interim, or that the daughter was mistaken in her identification, those matters go to the weight of the evidence, not to its admissibility.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2014/06/texas-rule-of-evidence-901aprovides-that-the-requirement-of-authentication-or-identification-as-a-condition-precedent-to.html

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