Select Page

Villanova University School of Law
Moreland, Michael P.

Why have rules of evidence?
1. Provide efficiency to the trial, limit the scope and duration.
2. To protect constitutional rights. To serve a substantive policy related to the litigated case.
3. protect the privacy of certain types of communication. To serve a substantive policy unrelated to the litigated case.
4. Accuracy in fact finding, authentication, hearsay, competency.
5. We don’t trust juries- character evidence example. 
Keeping evidence out:
The default rule is that evidence is admitted. Opposing party must object to its admittance Rule 103.
104a- judge makes all determinations on admissibility of evidence.
If the objection is sustained, the evidence is excluded, and curative instruction may be given if necessary.
            Sometimes a curative instruction may not be good enough and mistrial will be declared.
Rule 606b- upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury’s deliberations or to the effect of anything upon that or any other juror’s mind or emotions as influencing the juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or concerning the juror’s mental processes in connection there with. But a juror may testify about:
1. whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention
2. whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror
3. whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form.
Tanner v. US- Tanner’s atty received a phone call from one of the trial jurors telling him that several of the jurors consumed alcohol during the lunch breaks causing them to fall asleep during the afternoons. The juror said the jury was one big party, and that seven jurors drank during the recess and that other smoked marijuana and used cocaine. The district court denied this motion for a new trial and the app. Court affirmed.
The petitioners argue that jury testimony on ingestion of drugs or alcohol during the trial is permissible through 606b.
Issue: Whether the influence of alcohol is considered extraneous influence that jurors may testify about under rule 606b?
-No, the use of alcohol and drugs is considered internal influence, not external. The principle is that what happened in the jury room is shielded from post hoc revisitation. Internal matters are not admissible, sickness, drugs, alcohol, sleeping during trial. A juror cannot testify as to what other jurors are doing. External matters are admissible, a juror was taking bribes, making outside communication, juror isn’t listening to the instructions. 606b.
-Policy consideration- to allow investigation into what went on in the jury room would invalidate some verdicts.   On the other hand, the court will front load a bunch of rules that determine what the jury will be allowed to hear.
Rule 402: all relevant evidence is admissible, all irrelevant evidence is inadmissible.
First question- is the evidence relevant?
Fact in evidence- a piece of info which is being submitted to the finder of fact.
Fact of consequence- a material fact, a fact which helps the finder of fact decide the case.
This is the issue posed in relevance. The evidence doesn’t have to necessarily relate to the ultimate issue, but a fact which assists the jury in determining the ultimate issue.
Rule 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 w/o the evidence.
-Very low threshold, it just must be of consequence to the issue generally, and has to make the outcome more or less probable. If the fact in evidence makes any fact in consequence more or less likely, it is relevant. Is it something a rsnbl person would want to know before deciding the fact in consequence?
Starbucks example- it is relevant b./c it is a very low standard, as long as the piece of evidence makes the fact in consequence any more or less likely.   The fact that they met shows that they know each other.
Probative value- must have a tendency to make the existence of that fact more probable or less probable that it would be w/o the evidence. Determined by the jury in its deliberation. SBucks example is not that probative.
Material value- evidence must bear on a fact that is of consequence to the ultimate issue. Must relate to the substantive law that is applied to the issue at hand.
Sufficiency- whether a piece of evidence is sufficient to determine something (plotting with the triggerman in the Sbucks example). Judge decision, usually in J/t as a matter of law. Jury will determine just how sufficient it is.
United States v. James- James witnessed Ogden’s violence in the past and he told her that he had killed, stabbed and beaten other people. James gave her a gun expecting her to fend off Ogden with it, but she shot and killed him. This appeal is about four exhibits that James’ atty was not allowed to show to the jury, including court docs setting forth detailed findings on the violent robbery of a 58 year old man b/c in a claim of self-defense it matters what the defendant believed, not what actually happened in the past.
Issue- Whether the records were admissible as relevant evidence?
-Yes, it was absolutely necessary to the defense for the jury to believe that she wasn’t making up the stores, and the records provided that what James testified to actually took place. Because the crux of James’ defense rested on her credibility and because her credibility could be directly corroborated through the excluded documentary evidence, exclusion of the documents was prejudicial and probably affected the verdict.
-First question to ask in any problem, what are you trying to prove?
-Prosecution would argue here that the documents don’t prove her state of mind if she never saw them. This is a SD claim, it matters what she felt not so much what the truth was.
-FC= (what is trying to be proven) did the d rsnbly blv she and her daughter were in mortal danger?
-Fact that vic

gue the manner of her death. So the photographs are unnecessary since they only speak to uncontested facts, and admitting them would be unfairly prejudicial.
Issue: whether the admission of the photographs of the victim’s body was prejudicial because they inflamed the jury?
-Yes, some were, the pictures showing angles and depths of sounds should not have been admitted b/c they had little tendency to establish any disputed issue in the case. On the other hand, others weren’t b/c the prosecution can’t be expected to try its case in a vacuum.
Old Chief v. US-Old Chief was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and using a firearm in relation to a crime, but also violation of a statute that makes it unlawful for anyone who has been convicted in any curt of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year to possess a firearm. OC was previously charged w/ causing serious bodily injury. Defendant argues that revealing the name of his prior assault and conviction would unfairly tax the jury’s capacity to hold the Govt to its burden of proof and offered to solve the problem by stipulating agreeing and requesting the Court to instruct the jury that he has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding 1 year. The govt refuses the stipulation b/c of its right to prove its case in its own way.
Issue: Whether the probative value of disclosing the nature of OC’s previous offense is outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice?
– Yes it is, no question that evidence of the name or nature of the prior offense generally carries the risk of unfair prejudice to the defendant. That risk will vary from case to case, but could be enough to lure a juror into a sequence of bad character reasoning. On the other hand, an evidentiary account of what a defendant has thought and done can accomplish what no set of abstract statements ever could, not just prove a fact but to establish its human significance, and so to implicate the law’s moral underpinnings and a juror’s obligation to sit in judgment. 
The most the jury needs to know is that the conviction admitted by the defendant falls w/in the class of crimes that Congress thought should bar a convict from possession a gun. Proving status w/o telling exactly what that status was imposed leaves no gap in the story of a defendant’s subsequent criminality. 
– Stipulations are a way to put the necessary facts before the jury, but avoid unfair prejudice.