EvidenceProf Blog

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

Sunday, September 29, 2019

4th Circuit Reverses Death Sentences Because Juror Asked Pastor if She Would Go to Hell if She Voted to Impose the Death Penalty

Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) states that

(b) During an Inquiry into the Validity of a Verdict or Indictment.

(1) Prohibited Testimony or Other Evidence. During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury’s deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror’s or another juror’s vote; or any juror’s mental processes concerning the verdict or indictment. The court may not receive a juror’s affidavit or evidence of a juror’s statement on these matters.

(2) Exceptions. A juror may testify about whether:

(A) extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention;

(B) an outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror; or

(C) a mistake was made in entering the verdict on the verdict form.

There are many odd cases under Rule 606(b), and we can now add another one to the tally: Barnes v. Thomas, 2019 WL 4308636 (4th Cir. 2019).

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September 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Filed an Amicus Curiae Brief in the Adnan Syed Case

Today, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed an amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Adnan Syed. So, what does this mean?

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September 17, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Seventh Circuit Finds Proper Exclusion of Expert Testimony on "Charismatic Groups" in Tax Protestor Trial

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 states that

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;

(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

So, assume that a defendant filed seven nearly identical tax returns, each falsely claiming that she was entitled to a $300,000 refund, and is charged with making false claims against the United States and theft of government funds. If the defendant was a member of the the Moorish Science Temple of America, should she be allowed to call a forensic psychologist to testify that the defendant  was a member of a "charismatic group"—a cult-like organization that indoctrinates its members? That was the question addressed by the Seventh Circuit in its recent opinion in United States v. Truitt, 2019 WL 4315001 (7th Cir. 2019).

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September 17, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Supreme Court of Tennessee Finds Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(d) is Coextensive With the Brady Doctrine

In its opinion in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause obligates the prosecution to timely disclose material exculpatory evidence to the defense. Meanwhile, Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(d) states that

The prosecutor in a criminal case:....

shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense, and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal....

So, does the obligation imposed by Rule 3.8(d) exceed to obligation imposed by Brady v. Maryland?

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September 11, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Supreme Court of Florida Rejects Challenge to Adoption of Daubert Standard For Expert Evidence

In May, the Supreme Court of Florida dispensed with the Frye test for determining the admissibility of expert evidence and adopted the Daubert standard. The Frye standard determines the reliability/admissibility of evidence solely based upon whether the expert technique/technology has general acceptance on the relevant expert community (e.g., whether testimony by an arson expert is based upon a technique that has general acceptance on the arson investigation community). By way of contrast, under the Daubert standard, the judge acts as gatekeeper to the admission of expert evidence and determines reliability by considering factors such as

(1) whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested; (2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) its known or potential error rate; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation; and (5) whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.

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September 9, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)