· Evidence law is about the limitations we place on the info juries hear.
· Evidence is a screening process: Our justice system engages in very little quality control on back end (jury room) and because we don’t scrutinize the deliberative process, we have to scrutinize and regulate the quality of evidence that goes into that process.
· Irony: Because our system invests enormous trust in jury decisions, we need a system of E rules that betrays a deep mistrust of juries’ ability to cull good E from bad. Because we apparently don’t trust juries to cast off and disregard meaningless, misleading, and unreliable E, we screen out such E before juries ever hear it – this screening process is the realm of Evidence Law.
· Presume that certain evidence will distract juries from search for truth and produce wrong results.
· Rules of relevance guard against digression and distraction.
· Rules of reliability ensure evidence jury hears is as good as it claims to be.
· FRE have a liberal, evidence-friendly reputation – a preference for more, rather than less evidence
· 606(b) – Competency of Juror as Witness
o Jurors may not testify on the subject of any juror’s mental processes, statements, or anything else concerning how the jury reached its conclusion.
o Jurors may testify about (1) whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention, (2) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, or (3) whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form.
Tanner v. US
FACTS: Tanner ∆ was convicted of fraud and attempted to challenge the guilty verdict by showing misconduct by individual jurors.
ISSUE: Could the testimony of the jurors relating to juror misconduct be used to impeach their verdict? NO.
RULE: Juror testimony usually CANNOT overturn a verdict.
· Juror testimony may not be used to impeach a verdict unless the testimony relates to an outside influence that affected the jury.
Unit I: Relevance
Chapter 1. General Principles of Relevance
A. Probativeness and Materiality
· 401 – Definition of Relevant Evidence
o “Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
o “E is relevant if it has any tendency to make a material fact more or less probable.”
o “Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to be probative of a material fact.
§ Any tendency – Need not prove anything conclusively; “just 1 brick to the wall of proof”
§ Probative – E is probative if it makes a fact more or less likely to be true than it would be without it
§ Material – E is material if it bears on a fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action; E is material if it is directed toward a matter in issue.
· Usually requires us to look to the substantive law and the issues raised by the pleadings.
· The fact need not be an ultimate fact; it may be an evidentiary fact.
· The fact to which the evidence goes may be a link in a chain of proof.
o 3 Q’s to Ask:
§ (1) What is the E trying to prove?
§ (2) Is this an issue in the case? (Materiality)
§ (3) Is the E helpful in proving or disproving? (Probativeness)
· 402 – Relevant Evidence Generally Admissible; Irrelevant Evidence Inadmissible
o E must satisfy 401’s definition of relevancy, however, some relevant evidence is still excluded for policy reasons.
US v. James
FACTS: James ∆ claimed she acted in self-defense when she handed her daughter a gun that was used to kill Ogden, and she sought to introduce evidence of homicides and assaults committed by Ogden to corroborate her story.
ISSUE: Should the outside evidence of a murder victim’s violent acts have been admitted to show that the ∆ acted in self-defense? YES.
RULE: Evidence is relevant IF it corroborates a witness’s testimony.
· Evidence that directly corroborates a witness’s credibility is admissible, even if the evidence relates to facts not known to the witness.
B. Conditional Relevance
· 104(b) – Preliminary Questions
o “Relevancy Conditioned on Fact” – If the party seeking to introduce an item of E agrees that it is not relevant by itself, but states that it will be relevant when some other fact is established that provides a context for it, the situation is defined as “relevancy conditioned on fact.”
o Evidence that might be relevant, but only if some other condition is met.
§ Standard: There must be sufficient E to allow the jury to find by a preponderance of the E that the condition has been met.
o EXAMPLE: If a letter purporting to be from Y is relied upon to establish an admission of fault by him, it has no probative value UNLESS Y wrote or authorized it.
Cox v. State
FACTS: Cox ∆ was convicted of murder, and the prosecutor introduced evidence that his motive was revenge for a friend whose bail was not reduced. The mom of ∆’s friend was at the hearing. ∆ spent a lot of time with her.
ISSUE: Was evidence of an occurrence, which would substantiate the prosecution’s theory of the ∆’s motive, admissible even if there was no proof that the ∆ had knowledge of the occurrence? YES.
RULE: Conditionally relevant evidence is admissible.
· Evidence that is relevant only if another fact is proven will be admitted if the court concludes that a reasonable jury could make the required finding of fact with the evidence before it.
· Whether E of the bond hearing is relevant depends on a condition of fact – whether ∆ knew about what happened at the hearing.
· If ∆ knew what happened at the hearing, then information about the hearing would be relevant and probative of the State’s theory that ∆ committed the murder.
· The E is sufficient (E to allow the jury to find by a preponderance of the E) to support the inverence that ∆ knew what happened at the bond hearing.
C. Probativeness Versus the Risk of Unfair Prejudice
· 403 – Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time.
o 403 is a balancing test where relevant E may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative E. (Unfair surprise is NOT a valid ground upon which to exclude E).
§ Permits exclusion of relevant E; trial J’s discretion is very broad; a liberal E rule; relevant E is inherently prejudicial, but it is only unfair prejudice when substantially outweighs probative value; determinations under 403 will not be reversed unless Trial J has clearly abused that discretion.
§ “Unfair prejudice” does not refer to E that simply damages the opponent’s case; the rule refers to prejudice that is likely to result from the trier’s misuse of the E – rule is concerned only with E that is likely to distort the trier’s proper evaluation.
RULE: Evidence of flight may be admissible to show guilt.
· Evidence of flight is admissible to show consciousness of guilt only if the evidence is sufficient to support inferences
o (1) from the ∆’s behavior to the ∆’s flight,
o (2) from flight to consciousness of guilt,
o (3) from consciousness of guilt to consciousness of guilt of the crime charged, and
o (4) from consciousness of guilt of the crime charged to actual guilt.
(3) Probability Evidence
People v. Collins
FACTS: G introduced mathematical E that purported to show the probability that a couple matching the description of the ∆ and his wife committed a robbery.
ISSUE: Was the professor’s testimony on the statistical probability of the ∆’s guilt admissible? NO.
RULE: Statistical E will not be admitted unless it has a foundation in E and statistical theory, and it must not distract the jury from its duty to weigh the E on the issue of guilt.
o Statistical E requires a strong foundation.
403 REVIEW CASE…
Old Chief v. US
FACTS: ∆ was accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm. ∆ admitted that he was a felon, but trial court allowed the introduction of detailed E about the ∆’s earlier crime (that he was convicted of a criminal assault causing serious bodily injury). Old Chief’s offer to stipulate to the fact of a prior felony conviction was refused.
ISSUE: Should the evidence of the prior conviction have been excluded? YES.
RULE: A court abuses its discretion if it rejects an offer to stipulate to a prior conviction when a prior conviction is an element of the offense charged.
· Courts must accept offers to stipulate to prior convictions
• 403 was most important here
• Probative value must be discounted when other E, equally probative but less prejudicial, is available
• Said evidence was relevant but probative value low because of this offer to stipulate; don’t need the name and nature of the offense to prove your case; on the other hand, really worried about this unfair risk of prejudice
• The only legitimate use of E pertaining to the prior conviction was to establish ∆’s status as a felon prohibited from possessing a firearm.
• Court’s principal concern was the unfair prejudice likely to result when the E of the nature of the prior conviction (assault causing serious bodily injury) was offered for the sole purpose of proving the status of the accused.
• Substantial Risk of jury NOT confining its use of the detailed E to question of status;
• Instead, jury might use E to reason that ∆ had a propensity to commit violent crimes
• G’s E to presumably just show “status” might have had strong effect of tainting jury’s attitude toward the question of guilt
1. Is E relevant under 401 (material/probative)?
2. If so, excluded by 407-411?
3. If not, does it survive 403 balancing?