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University of Iowa School of Law
Tomkovicz, James Joseph "Jim"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008
4:23 PM

·                   Trial Judge’s Authority
o                        General Principles
·                               All rules mandate errors that do not affect substantial rights of the parties; thus, most errors do not get overturned
·                               Generally, harmless error standards are same in civil and criminal cases
·                               Plain error: particularly egregious or a miscarriage of justice resulting from the error
o                        FRE: 104: Preliminary Questions
·                               Questions of admissibility generally- Preliminary questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness, the existence of privilege, or the admissibility of the evidence shall be determined by the court, subject to the provisions of relevancy. In making this determination, it is not bound by the rules of evidence except those of privileges
·                               Relevancy conditioned on fact- when the relevancy of evidence depends upon the fulfillment of a condition of fact, the court shall admit it upon the introduction of evidence sufficient to support a finding of the fulfillment of the condition
·                               Hearing of jury- hearings on the admissibility of confessions shall in all cases be conducted out of the hearing of the jury. Hearings on other preliminary matters shall be conducted when the interests of justice require or when the accused requests
·                               Testimony by accused- the accused does not, by testifying upon a preliminary matter, become subject to cross-examination as to other issues in the case
·                               Weight and Credibility- this rule does not limit the right of a party to introduce before the jury evidence relevant to weight or credibility
o                        FRE: 103: Rulings on Evidence
·                               Effect of erroneous ruling- error may not be predicated on a ruling which admits or excludes evidence unless a substantial right of the party is affected
§                                     Objection- in case the ruling is one admitting evidence, a timely objection or motion to strike appears on the record, stating specific grounds of objection
§                                     Offer of proof- in case it was excluding evidence, the substance of the evidence must have been made known to the court by offer
·                               Record of offer and ruling- the court may add any other or further statement which shows the character of the evidence, the form in which it was offered, the objection made, and the ruling thereon. It may direct the making of an offer in question and answer form
·                               Hearing of the jury- in jury cases, proceedings shall be conducted so as to prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury by any means
·                               Plain error- nothing in this rule precludes taking notice of plain errors affecting substantial rights although they were not brought to the attention of the court

Tuesday, December 02, 2008
10:39 PM

·                   Relevance and Irrelevance
o                        General Principles
·                               Involve the question of whether an item of evidence, when tested by legal reasoning, possesses sufficient probative value to justify receiving it into evidence
·                               It must have a tendency to make the existence of the fact to be proved more probable or less probable
·                               Standard of probability
§                                     More probable than it would be without the evidence
·                               “Material”: evidence depends on the substantive law to determine whether it is relevant
o                        FRE: 401: 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 probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence
o                        FRE: 402: Relevant Evidence Generally Admissible
·                               All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided
·                               Evidence that it is not relevant is not admissible
o                        Knapp v. State(19)
·                               D was convicted of murder. He testified in an attempt to show that he feared the deceased. He told a story that someone had told a story of the deceased clubbing an old man who died. G sought to bring in a physician who said that the old man died of senility and old age, not violence.
§                                     D objects and says that it is not relevant since it does not go to whether the D heard the story
·                               Court holds that the fact that the old man died of natural causes tended to discredit the D, since it showed that somewhere between the fact and the testimony there was a lie
§                                     Testimony had a tendency to render his claim as to what he heard less probable
o                        United States v. Dominguez(20)
·                               D was a customs officer who was found guilty of murder and other charges. At trial, the G introduced evidence that he owned a gun and had scratches on the barrel consistent with an attempt to remove it.
§                                     D contends that this evidence was irrelevant since all customs officers have to own guns
·                               Court holds that this evidence is relevant even though it is weak
§                                     The replacement effort makes guilt more probable than had there been no replacement effort
o                        United States v. Larson(21)

d not significantly aid in the determination of the fact and amount of purported payments
§                                     It would serve only to shift focus of the trial from allegations of drug-trafficking to political intrigue
o                        United States v. Flitcraft(27)
·                               D and wife appeal from conviction for failing to file tax returns. D admitted at trial that their income was high enough to make them liable for fax; they contend solely that they did not act willfully. Both asserted that they had read cases and were convinced their wages were not income. TC refused to allow D to introduce the legal materials he claimed to rely on
§                                     D argues that the jury would have been more likely to believe D had they seen the documents
·                               Court holds that the danger of confusing the jury and prejudice outweighs the probative value of the evidence
§                                     Evidence was merely cumulative; already had the testimony
§                                     Confuse the jury into thinking the law on the matter was unsettled
o                        Abernathy v. Superior Hardwoods, Inc.(28)
·                               P sued D for negligence when he was hit by a log while unloading them from a truck. D made a video showing how the logs were unloaded. (not at the time of the accident). TC allowed the tape but with no sound
§                                     D contends that it would fairly and accurately depict the method in which the trucks were routinely unloaded, and the sound would prove that P should have heard the forklift beginning to unload
·                               Court holds that the TC did not abuse its discretion in keeping out evidence of slight probative value and prejudicial effect
§                                     While it was relevant, there were problems with reliability
§                                     The mic was not placed where P had been standing
§                                     Recordings can be manipulated and there can be issues on whether the sounds the jury hears were the same decibels the P heard
§                                     The recording would have distracted the jury and the judge was not outside of his bounds in excluding the evidence
o                        United States v. McRae(29)