Select Page

Charleston School of Law
Beckman, Sydney Aaron

Evidence Outline
I.      Relevancy
A.    General Principles – Rules 401-403
1.        State v. Kotsimpulos – D was convicted of stealing pork tenderloins, and wanted to raise the defense that they were planted there. The trial court excluded the testimony stating that it would only confuse the jury, and was not a defense.
a.     Evidence must be weighed on a continuum, and when that evidence’s probative value approaches zero, it should be excluded under 402.
b.     Prior to the point when the probative value approaches zero, the evidence must be weighed against other factors, in 403, and if the other factors substantially outweigh the probative value, the evidence should be excluded.
c.     Other factors in 403 are:
i.        unfair prejudice;
ii.        confusion of the issues;
iii.        misleading the jury;
iv.        considerations of undue delay;
v.        waste of time; or
vi.        needless presentation
2.        State v. Nichols – D raped a woman, and wanted results of a blood test done on the sperm excluded because they showed he belonged to a class of about 60% of Americans that could have raped the woman, but was not excluded by the test
a.     The test to determine whether to admit or exclude evidence is one of weighing the probative value against prejudicial effect.
b.     An objection cannot be made on the weight of the evidence, that should be argued to the jury, and not used in admitting evidence.
3.     US v. Johnson – D overpaid his taxes and was convicted of lying to the IRS, but the charges of tax evasion was dismissed because he overpaid his taxes, and was not allowed to present this evidence.
a.     Even though evidence might be relevant to events that unfolded, if evidence is not relevant to the elements of the offense, than it should be excluded.
b.     The evidence was properly excluded because it was relevant that d relied on his accountants, however it was not relevant that he overpaid his taxes because he lied to his accountants
c.     Because the probative value was less than the chance of confusing and drawing sympathy for the jury, the evidence was properly excluded, which is exactly what 403 was meant to protect.
4.     US v. McRae – D was convicted of murdering his wife, and the government introduced gruesome pictures of the dead body to show that the shooting was not accidental.
a.     Relevant evidence is prejudicial by its very nature, but 403 should only exclude unfair prejudice when probative value is substantially outweighed.
b.     Use of 403 must be cautious and sparing, being limited to only excluding matter of scant or cumulative probative force for the sake of its prejudicial effect.
c.     403 is for the trial judge to preserve the fairness of the proceeding, and not to even out the weight of evidence.
5.        Simon v. Kennebunkport – P tripped and fell and wanted to admit evidence that others had tripped and fell on that same section of sidewalk.
a.     Evidence tending to show a latent defect is admissible as to other accidents under similar circumstances if it outweighs the dangers of unfair prejudice or confusion of the issues or by consideration of undue delay.
6.        Fusco v. GMC – P contended a ball-stud had broken and this was the cause of accident. D wanted to show a video of how a car loses control when the ball-stud is broken, and that the car could not have reacted that way, and the ball-stud was broken in the subsequent collision.
a.     It is on the party offering evidence to lay the foundation that the probative value outweighs unfair prejudice.
B.                Character – 404, 405, and 412-415
1.        Evidence concerning the accused in a criminal case
a.     Prohibition against Character Attack in the Case in Chief – 404
i.        US v. Gilliland – Gov. wanted to try and cross examine d’s stepson and in doing so ask about d’s prior criminal history of committing the same crime.
(A).                Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity therewith.
(B).                Character is not allowed to be put on trial by the prosecution, because bad character tends to show that a bad actor’s action will always conform with criminal behavior. The prosecution must show that in this instance the accused’s actions were in conformity at the time of this crime.
(C).                The accused can open the door of character, but the prosecution is not allowed to bootstrap character by asking an eye witness of the accused’s character.
b.     Definsive Use of Character and Prosecution Response – 404(a)(1) and 405(a)(1)
i.        US v. Monteleone – D was convicted of disposing a firearm to a felon. D put on a fellow firefighter as a character witness to testify to the d’s law abiding nature, and the prosecution asked the witness if he knew that d had perjured himself.
(A).                In cross-examining a character witness, the government must demonstrate a good-faith factual basis for the incidents raised in cross-examination and the incidents inquired about must be relevant to the character traits at issue in the case.
(B).                The incidents must be public knowledge, because if they are not, then the incidents cannot

.                Rule 414 does not shut the door to viewing evidence under 403. However, to give 414 its intended effect, it must be considered as more flexible than 403, and makes the balancing test less.
ii.        US v. Mound – D was convicted previously of sexual abuse of a minor in a much similar way as to here. The d moved that 414 was unconstitutional because it violated due process.
(A).                Due process is not violated by 414 and Congress has the power to allow these rule changes.
(B).                Application of 414 supercedes 404(b), and makes it easier to allow evidence of prior bad acts for sexual abuse cases.
iii.        State v. Burns – Prosecution tried to introduce evidence of a prior crime that was not reported to the police or charged the d.
(A).                State rule violated the state constitution because it put on trial other crimes that were not charged in the indictment.
(B).                The mandatory language of this statute allowing all evidence in of prior bad acts from balancing the probative value against the effects of undue prejudice.
2.        Evidence Concerning the victim in a criminal case
a.     Homicide and assault – 404 (a)(2), 404(b), and 405 (a)
i.        Gov. of the Virgin Islands v. Carino – D wanted to introduce the victim’s prior conviction for killing a man, because he said she had threatened to kill him, a second man, and he shot her in self-defense.
(A)                The victim’s character cannot be an issue unless he is an opinion or reputation witness. 405(a)
(B)                However, the rules do not change the precedent that the character can be put at issue to show the d’s fear of life or bodily injury, if he can show he knew of the victim’s prior bad acts at the time the act was committed.
b.     Rape and Sexual Assault – 412
i.        Summitt v. State – D was convicted of blowing a boy and bird, and tried to introduce evidence that the victim had previously acted in this kind of matter.
(A)          Rape shield laws are to protect the victim from putting their character on trial from saying they are easy.