EvidenceProf Blog

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Possible Next Steps in the Adnan Syed Case

Today, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in the Adnan Syed case, meaning that the Court will not hear his appeal from the 4-3 opinion of the Court of Appeals of Maryland denying him a new trial:

Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 9.31.38 AM

So, what are possible next steps in Adnan's case?

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November 25, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (18)

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Primer on Today's Supreme Court Conference in the Adnan Syed Case

Today, the United States Supreme Court will consider Adnan Syed's petition for writ of certiorari. That petition asks the Supreme Court to take up the following question:

Whether a court evaluating prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), must take the State’s case as it was presented to the jury, as ten state and federal courts have held, or whether the court may instead hypothesize that the jury may have disbelieved the State’s case, as the Maryland Court of Appeals held below.

So, what should we expect?

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November 22, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington Finds Experts Can't Testify About Use of Appropriate Force in Excessive Force Case

Federal Rule of Evidence 704(a) states that

An opinion is not objectionable just because it embraces an ultimate issue.

That said, while experts are allowed to render opinions on ultimate factual issues, they are not allowed to render opinions that constitute legal conclusions and invade the province of the jury. A good example of this latter type of opinion testimony can be found in the recent opinion of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Bao Xuyen Le v. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. County, 2019 WL 2289681 (W.D.Wash. 2019).

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November 20, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Superior Court of the Virgin Islands Grapples With the Distinction Between Habit and Character Evidence

Similar to its federal counterpart, Virgin Islands Rule of Evidence 406 provides that

Evidence of a person’s habit or an organization’s routine practice may be admitted to prove that on a particular occasion the person or organization acted in accordance with the habit or routine practice. The court may admit this evidence regardless of whether it is corroborated or whether there was an eyewitness.

So, what's the dividing line between inadmissible propensity character evidence and admissible habit evidence under Rule 406? This was thee question of first impression addressed by the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands in its recent opinion in Crawford v. Bobeck, 2019 WL 3564487 (2019).

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November 17, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Tenth Circuit Finds Alleged Co-Conspirator's Suicide Note Taking Sole Responsibility Inadmissible in Embezzlement Trial

Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A statement that:

(A) a reasonable person in the declarant’s position would have made only if the person believed it to be true because, when made, it was so contrary to the declarant’s proprietary or pecuniary interest or had so great a tendency to invalidate the declarant’s claim against someone else or to expose the declarant to civil or criminal liability; and

(B) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate its trustworthiness, if it is offered in a criminal case as one that tends to expose the declarant to criminal liability.

So, can an alleged co-conspirator's admission of (sole) fault for criminal wrongdoing be admissible under Rule 804(b)(3)? That was the question addressed by the Tenth Circuit in its recent opinion in United States v. Hammers, 2019 WL 5876843 (10th Cir. 2019).

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November 16, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Post on the Oral Arguments in the Joey Watkins Case

Today, there were oral arguments in the Supreme Court of Georgia in the Joey Watkins case, which we covered in Season 2 of the Undisclosed Podcast. So, what happened at those oral arguments, and what can we expect?

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November 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Partial Alibi Strawman & The Defense's Reply Brief in the Adnan Syed Case

Today, the legal team for Adnan Syed filed its Reply Brief in Support of Certiorari. This is the last document that will be filed before the Supreme Court decides whether to hear Adnan's case. All of the documents that have been filed in this case will now be distributed to the Supreme Court justices. Adnan's case will then be discussed at conference, with the likeliest dates being November 15th, November 22nd, December 6th, or December 13th. We will likely hear the Court's decision the following Monday. If 4+ Justices agree to "grant cert," the Supreme Court will hear the case. If 3 or fewer Justices agree to "grant cert," the Supreme Court will not hear the case, and the alibi appeal will be over. So, what does Adnan's team argue in its Reply Brief?

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November 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (6)