Villanova University School of Law
● Definition of Evidence:
o Testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact
· Types of Evidence:
o Oral Testimony:
§ Fact witnesses – people who perceived facts related to the lawsuit and testify about those facts. Some are eyewitnesses.
§ Expert witnesses – people who use specialized knowledge to interpret evidence or explain it to the jury.
§ Character witnesses – people who offer information about the good and bad character of a party or witness. Rules limit their ability to testify.
o Real Evidence:
§ Any physical evidence that a party claims played a direct role in the controversy.
§ Must be authenticated.
§ Any type of writing or recording of information.
§ Most documents must be authenticated.
o Demonstrative evidence:
§ Created to illustrate concepts or facts to the jury.
§ Examples: charts, tables, pictures, maps, and graphs. Can be staged literal demonstrations by actors or witnesses.
§ Judges more cautious in admitting demonstrative evidence than real evidence.
§ Both parties must agree to the language of a fact, then it is read to the jury as a stipulation.
o Judicial Notice:
§ Fact must be “generally known” or “accurately and readily determined.”
§ Judge takes judicial notice if the fact is indisputably true.
○ Photographs and Videos:
§ Either real or demonstrative evidence:
· Ex. of real – footage from a bank security camera that captured a robbery on tape.
· Ex. of demonstrative – photos of a crime scene.
○ Circumstantial Evidence:
§ Any evidence that requires the jury to make an inference connecting the evidence with a disputed fact:
· Ex. – A witness testifies that he saw the defendant washing blood off his hands shortly after the victim was killed. Requires assumptions by the jury that the defendant is guilty.
§ Line between direct and circumstantial evidence is unclear:
· Not separate categories of evidence, but ends on a continuum.
· The distinction has no legal effect:
· Circumstantial evidence can support a verdict as effectively as direct evidence.
● The Four W’s of the Federal Rules of Evidence:
■ Rules adopt a generous view of admissibility, giving parties as much leeway as possible to prove their cases.
■ Rules exclude evidence to achieve one or more of these ends:
● To protect the jury from misleading information
● To eliminate unnecessary delay and promote efficiency
● To protect a social interest, such as a confidential relationship
● To ensure that evidence is sufficiently reliable
■ Notes written by the Advisory Committee
■ Committee Reports and other legislative history from Congress
■ Rule 101. Scope; Definitions:
● (a) Scope. These rules apply to proceedings in the United States courts. The specific courts and proceedings to which the rules apply, along with exceptions, are set out in Rule 1101.
■ Rule 1101. Applicability of the Rules:
● (a) To Courts and Judges. These rules apply to proceedings before:
○ United States district courts;
○ United States bankruptcy and magistrate judges;
○ United States courts of appeals
○ the United States Court of Federal Claims; and
○ the district courts of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
● (b) To Cases and Proceedings. These rules apply in:
○ Civil cases and proceedings, including bankruptcy, admiralty, and maritime cases;
○ Criminal cases and proceedings; and
○ Contempt proceedings, except those in which the court may act summarily.
● (c) Rules on Privilege. The rules on privilege apply to all stages of a case or proceeding.
● (d) Exceptions. These rules – except for those on privilege – do not apply to the following:
○ (1) the court’s determination, under Rule 104(a), on a preliminary question of fact governing admissibility;
○ (2) grand-jury proceedings; and
○ (3) miscellaneous proceedings such as”
■ extradition or rendition;
■ issuing an arrest warrant, cri
he burden of proof presents first. Defense can go immediately after the Prosecution/Plaintiff or wait until before its case-in-chief.
■ Attorneys increasingly use visual aids in their opening statements.
○ Plaintiff’s/Prosecutor’s Case-in-chief:
■ Consists of all the evidence – witness testimony, real evidence, documents, and demonstrations – that comprise the plaintiff/prosecutor’s case.
■ Defense will move for judgment as a matter of law or judgment of acquittal at the close of the P’s case-in-chief.
○ Defendant’s Case-in-chief or Case-in-defense:
■ Criminal defendants often choose not to testify.
○ Plaintiff’s/Prosecutor’s Case-in-rebuttal:
■ May call new witnesses and bring in new evidence, but it must focus on issues raised by the defense.
○ Defendant’s Case-in-rebuttal or Case-in-rejoinder:
■ Defense’s response to P’s rebuttal. Must be limited to evidence produced in the preceding phase.
○ Further Rebuttal and Rejoinder:
■ Trial judge has discretion to allow or not.
○ Closing Statements:
■ Visual aids often used.
○ Instructing the Jury:
■ Some judges give instructions before closing arguments; others give them after closings.
■ Instructions usually center around how the jury should handle items of evidence.
■ Juries are limited in what they can bring into the deliberation room.
■ Trial ends with the jury’s verdict and the court’s entry of judgment on the verdict.
■ Parties may file a variety of post-verdict motions.
■ Parties, except for the prosecutor in a criminal case, may file an appeal.
■ Criminal cases that end in convictions also have sentencing hearings.