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SUNY Buffalo Law School
Chiesa, Luis E.

EVIDENCE – OUTLINE Spring 2014-Prof. Chiesa

We need evidence rules to use the time in court efficiently and we want to exclude irrelevant facts. But further we want to secure other interests even though they evidence is relevant.

In case of a search without warrant in a house we exclude the evidence because the Constitution (4th Amendment) is violated even though the evidence is relevant. This because we want to deter police officers and secure privacy even though we are sacrificing truth-finding.

Rules of evidence are also important regarding the jury trial because juries are not clever enough to figure out what is relevant for this trial and the crime charged. A judge can do this but not juries. So it is also important because if it was a bench trial or not. That is the reason why we have so many evidence rules in common law countries compared to civil law countries.

The Rules of Evidence come from the Common Law but they have now been codified including the federal jurisdiction and about 44 states jurisdictions. New York has not yet codified rules of evidence and therefore you have to use the cases. The federal rules are the most important ones.

Chapter 1 – Relevance

Defining Relevance – Rule 401

The evidence offered to prove or disprove a material fact is relevant if it has any tendency to make a fact less or more probable then it would be without the evidence.

Problem 1-1

Fact one is relevant but it doesn’t mean that Susan is automatically not liable. Also Fact 2 is relevant but it makes it less likely. Fact 3 is not relevant. Also Fact 5 is relevant but it is maybe not admissible (but this means not that it is not relevant). Also Fact 4 and 6 are important. Fact 6 impeaches the testimony and is therefore relevant. Without fact 4 there would be no relevance regarding fact 6. Also fact 7 is not relevant.

Note: Impeachment evidence is always relevant.

Even if we would not have Rule 401 we would take this evidence into account. There is no real test for relevance and therefore the judging is done by the judge with his human experience.

Problem 1-2 Statutory Rape

Evidence (a): Probative Worth

This evidence is probative because it makes it more likely what she wants to prove. It is not important if it makes it only a little bit more likely as long as if it makes a difference.

Evidence (a): Material

If the states statute has no strict liability in this crime than the mens rea is important and then her defense in material. If it is a strict liability crime than it is not material.

This shows that you have also to consult the substantive criminal law to solve the problem.

In most American jurisdiction it is a strict liability crime and therefore it is not material. Therefor it is only relevant if the statute in this states allows a defense and is not a strict liability crime.

Evidence (b): Material

Also consent is immaterial because it is statutory rape. Consent is not an element of the offense.

We would also not care about evidence of the manufacturer of non-negligence in a Product Liability case because it is strict liability.

Problem 1-3: One too many for the road

(a) It is relevant because it is with probative worth and material. You could perhaps argue it away because it was icy or you wanted not to violate a cat.

(b) It is also relevant. His friends spilled a drink on him.

(c) It is also relevant. Alternative: Same friend left it in his car.

(d) It is also relevant. He was dizzy because he was afraid hitting the cat.

Coming up with an alterative explanation does not fight away the relevance of the evidence. All of this evidence would be admi

bative value of the flight. The court concluded that all steps were met.

(i) Whether evidence supports the inference that there has been a flight in first place. The concluded that the evidence supported this inference.

(ii) The next two steps are if the defendant is afflicted with a guilty consciousness of (iii) the crime charged. Here they discuss that a sudden increase of fear.

(iii) Also the forth criteria regarding the guilty consciousness of the crime charged are met.

Court did not abuse his discretion.

State v. Wisdom

Defendant was convicted for murder in the first degree. Basically the defendant refused to touch the dead body of the victim when he was told to do so. The procedure dates back to a superstition that the dead body will start to bleed if touched by his murder.

The court states that the D had a right to decline because no one had a right to subject him to this test and the refusal might not prejudice him. But the court also states that a consciousness of guilt might have influenced him to refuse and that the jury could consider that.



Even though there might be an explanation for flight that is consistent with innocence, that should not impact the relevancy explanation, which requires only a tendency to prove the point for it is offered.

The are distinctions between inductive and deductive evidence. If it is deductive then the stated premises necessarily lead to a particular conclusion.

Conditional Relevance