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Evidence
St. Thomas University, Minneapolis School of Law
Hoyos, Juan

 
Juan Hoyos, Evidence, Spring 2016
I.                   Introduction
a.       Policy reasons for the Rules of Evidence (R. 102)
                                                              i.      To get to the truth
                                                            ii.      To streamline trials
                                                          iii.      Protect jury from misleading info
                                                          iv.      Promote confidential info
                                                            v.      Ensure evidence is reliable
b.      Who creates the rules
                                                              i.      Advisory committee from Supreme Court, sent to Congress for approval
                                                            ii.      Congress sometimes amends without advisory committee
c.       Where do they apply (R. 101; 1101)
                                                              i.      District courts (including Guam, Virgin Island, and Mariana Islands)
                                                            ii.      Bankruptcy and magistrate judges
                                                          iii.      Courts of appeals
                                                          iv.      Court of federal claim
                                                            v.      Not admin agencies, except Tax Court in certain proceedings
d.      When do they Apply (R. 1101)
                                                              i.      Criminal/civil
                                                            ii.      Do not apply to (except privilege):
1.      Preliminary questions under (R. 104(a))
2.      Grand-jury
3.      Miscellaneous proceedings (extradition, issuing a warrant, preliminary examination, sentencing, probation, bail)
4.      Even in these, judges loosely follow
e.       Types of Evidence
– Definition: testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact
                                                              i.      Oral Testimony
1.      Fact Witness
2.      Expert Witness
3.      Character Witness
                                                            ii.      “Real Evidence” AKA “Direct Evidence”
1.      Any physical evidence that a party claims played a direct role in the controversy
2.      Despite name, no more important than other types of evidence
3.      Must be authenticated—some proof that the piece of evidence is what it claims to be
                                                          iii.      Documents
1.      Often subcategory of real evidence
                                                          iv.      Demonstrative evidence
1.      Parties create demonstrative evidence to illustrate concepts or facts to the jury.
2.      E.g., charts, tables, pictures, maps, and graphs
3.      Carefully monitored to make sure it is not misleading
                                                            v.      Stipulations
                                                          vi.      Judicial Notice
1.      Judges take notice that a fact is indisputable true
a.       Either, generally known, or accurately and readily determined by consulting an unimpeachable source
f.       Circumstances Evidence vs. Direct
                                                              i.      Circumstantial: Any evidence that requires the jury to make an inference connecting the evidence with a disputed fact.
1.      Extremely common in proving state of mind
                                                            ii.      Direct evidence: requires no inference bridge; it directly establishes a contested fact
1.      All evidence requires some inference, but those inferences that are quick and intuitive in the brain are still direct evidence
                                                          iii.      No legal distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence; both weighed the same.
II.                Structure of a Trial
a.       Motions in limine
                                                              i.      Motion to either exclude an opponent’s piece of evidence or to secure permission to introduce potentially contested piece of evidence (based on the Rules of Evidence)
                                                            ii.      Tactical advantages:
1.      Knowing what evidence is in, will help plan strategy
2.      Can make lengthier and sophisticated arguments, compared to during the trial
3.      Jurors would never know the evidence is available if excluded
b.      Jury Selection (Voir Dire)
c.       Opening Statements
                                                              i.      Overview of evidence you’re going to present, explains why the jury should discount the other side’s evidence, offers a theme that the jurors can use to organize the evidence they will hear
                                                            ii.      Effective openings: 1) tells a compelling story, and 2) reflects the evidence that will unfold during trial.
                                                          iii.      Party who bears the burden of proof delivers the first opening
                                                          iv.      Defense can sometimes reserve opening statements until the prosecution has finished (attorneys often would rather combat story immediately)
                                                            v.      Opening statements are not evidence, but attorneys may use demonstrative evidence
d.      Plaintiff’s/Prosecutor’s Case-in-Chief
                                                              i.      After P’s case-in-chief, defendant will move for judgment as a matter of law, or judgment of acquittal. Judge will grant only if no reasonable jury could find for P
e.       Defendant’s Case-In-Chief (or Case-in-Defense)
f.       P’s Case-in-Rebuttal
                                                              i.      Rebuts evidence by D, but must focus on those issues raise by defense
g.      D’s Case-in-Rebuttal (or Case-in-Rejoinder)
                                                              i.      Again, must focus on new evidence in P’s rebuttal, and not simply revisiting the defendant’s original case
h.      Further rebuttal and rejoinder
                                                              i.      Court has discretion to allow
                                                            ii.      Would keep getting narrower
i.        Closings
                                                              i.      Purpose is to offer the jury a framework for assembling the evidence and delivering the verdict that the party favors
                                                            ii.      Often uses demonstrative evidence
j.        Instructing Jury
k.      Deliberation
l.        Verdict
III.             Raising and Resolving Objections (R. 103)
a.       Preserve an error admitting evidence if timely object on specific ground
b.      Preserve an error excluding evidence if party preforms offer of proof, unless substances was apparent from the context
c.       No need to object in trial, if you objected in motion in limine; but if judge deferred ruling, then need to object in trial
d.      Jury should be shielded from hearing any evidence that is inadmissible—sidebar or outside jury presence
e.       Ruling by judge
                                          

Supreme Court rejected the idea that discriminatory acts by one supervisor are never relevant against a different supervisor. Relevance requires a case-by-case inquiry
V.                403: Prejudice, Confusion, and Waste of Time.
a.       403 applies a counterweight to the generosity of relevance. It recognizes that some evidence that is relevant may have unfair effects if introduced
b.      Court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of:
                                                              i.      Unfair prejudice (most common)
                                                            ii.      Confusing the issue
                                                          iii.      Misleading the jury
                                                          iv.      Undue delay
                                                            v.      Wasting time
                                                          vi.      Needlessly presenting cumulative evidence
c.       Like relevance, 403 should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Judges have considerable discretion under 403 (see “may exclude”)
d.      Substantial outweighed
                                                              i.      Rule still recognizes a firm tilt toward admissibility
                                                            ii.      If probative value and unfair prejudice are evenly weighed, or even if unfair prejudice slightly outweighs probative value, the evidence is admitted.
e.       Unfair
                                                              i.      All evidence is prejudicial in the sense that the party offering hopes it will damage the opposing side. Judges wont exclude simply because it is good evidence; must be unfair in the sense intended by the rule makers
1.      Damaging evidence is not unfair; just persuasive
                                                            ii.      Evidence “lures the fact finder into declaring guilt [or liability] on a ground different from proof specific go the offense charged.” Old Chief v. U.S., 519 U.S. 172 (1997). I.e. unfair means that the evidence will tempt the jury to decide the case on grounds different from those the law demands.
f.       Five common factors influencing judges under a 403 objection
                                                              i.      Will the evidence arise the emotions or irrational prejudice among the jurors?
                                                            ii.      Will the jury overvalue the evidence? I.e. give more weight than it should
                                                          iii.      The strength of the evidence to the case. Is it closely related to the essential elements of the case?
                                                          iv.      Can the advocate prove the fact through less prejudicial means?
                                                            v.      Can the prejudice be reduced? E.g., redact, limiting instruction.