Evidence Outline –Lawson Spring
I. Relevancy and Related Problems
A. Definition, Admissibility, and Rule 403 Exception
1. Definition – Rule 401. Definition of “Relevant Evidence”
Evidence having any tendency to make the existence of a fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
Here, we are dealing with Logical Relevance → does the evidence offered make existence of the material facts more or less probable than without the evidence? (Based on logic).
(a) D writes a love letter to V’s wife. Prosecution offers letter to prove that D killed V. Does the evidence of the letter make it more or less probable that D killed V than without the letter?
Answer → Yes
(b) How strongly must it prove the fact?
Evidence → D drove drunk. Seeking to prove → D negligent. The evidence of driving drunk is clearly relevant. BUT …
Evidence → D consumed 2 beers and drove. Seeking to prove → D negligent. (Lawson assumes that 2 beers would be relevant.) BUT …
Evidence → D left bar before accident. Seeking to prove → D negligent. The fact that D left a bar before an accident is probably NOT likely to make the existence of his negligence more or less likely than it would be without such evidence.
· Judge the relevance independently for each piece.
2. Rule of General Admissibility – Rule 402. Relevant Evidence Generally Admissible; Irrelevant Evidence Inadmissible
All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution, Act of Congress, these rules, or other rules prescribed by the S. Ct. pursuant to statutory authority. Evidence that is not relevant is not admissible.
(There is no common law rule of evidence. If it’s relevant, it’s admissible, except for statutory exceptions, these rules or other positive law.)
Distinguishing an ultimate (or material) fact from an evidentiary fact:
· Ultimate or material fact: that which is material to the determination of the action. (In a murder trial, whether D intentionally killed V; in negligence action, whether D failed duty to P to exercise reasonable care … etc.)
· Evidentiary or relevant fact: those facts that tend to prove the ultimate fact.
(a) People v. Adamson (page 6): Prosecution for 1st degree murder. The only Ultimate or Material Fact → D killed V. (D challenged the evidence as insufficient to identify him as the killer).
3 items of evidence: (Evidentiary Facts)
· D’s Fingerprints
how people act inside and outside the courtroom. → “The utilization of assumed names is very common among certain cultures … . While there are … instances where aliases are used to deceive, it is also likely that an assumed name is being used for entirely innocent reasons and therefore should not be deemed … probative of … credibility.”
· Thompson v. Dietrich: the court found the use of an alias “highly probative of … credibility” and not highly inflammatory.
(c) Rule 104 “Preliminary Questions”
(a) Questions of admissibility generally. Prelim. questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness, the existence of a privilege, or the admissibility of evidence shall be determined by the court, subject to the provisions of subdivision (b). In making its determination it is not bound by the rules of evidence except those with respect to privileges.
Relevancy conditioned on fact. When the relevance of evidence depends upon the fulfillment of a condition of fact, the court shall