Federal rules of evidence


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First part of Mock Trial class on Federal Rules of Evidence

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Federal rules of evidence

  1. 1. Federal Rules of Evidence Rules, Objections, and Arguments
  2. 2.  The Rules of Evidence exist to “filter” and remove from the huge volume of all available evidence those parts which should be excluded:  To save the court’s time  To prevent consideration of facts which may not be fair  To prevent consideration of facts which can’t be established as reliable
  3. 3. Rules to save the court’s time Relevance: Rules 401, 402, 403  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 without the evidence.
  4. 4. Relevance: Rule 401  This definition contains conditions of both “relevant” and “material”.  In plain English: “relevant” means a fact is relevant if it is related to the issue being determined,  A fact is “material” if it is helpful in determining the issue.
  5. 5. Rule 402  Relevant evidence is admissible; irrelevant evidence is inadmissible.  The proper form for a relevance objection to testimony is: “Objection your Honor. This testimony is irrelevant.”  Be prepared to argue how this testimony is either: not related to the issue or not helpful in determining the issue.
  6. 6. Rule 402  The proper form for an objection to a question which asks for irrelevant testimony is: “Objection your Honor. This question asks for testimony that is irrelevant.”  Be prepared to argue that the answer will not be relevant – but don’t argue about what the witness will say (don’t say it for them when you argue!)
  7. 7. Rule 402  To argue the relevance objection:  Be clear about the issue of the case.  State the issue clearly and briefly – “Your Honor the issue in this case is the defendant’s actions and mental state, the testimony tells us nothing that would help determine this issue.”  If you are trying to get the evidence in, and you are objected to, the door is open for you to argue your case and make it even more clear to the jury how it is related and how it helps in determining the issue.
  8. 8. Rule 402  Warning: A relevance objection allows a prepared attorney the chance to not just present evidence but also to explain its importance. A good response to this objection turns into a chance to argue the case.  So:  If the opposing side raises the objection, take advantage of it!!!!  If it isn’t essential to keep the information out – don’t make this objection against a skilled att’y.
  9. 9. Rule 403  Other reasons for using the relevance objection can be  “more prejudicial than probative” meaning more emotionally impacting on the jury than useful for finding objective “truth”.  “confusing the issue” meaning it brings up questions unrelated to the determination the court must make.
  10. 10. Rule 403  If the testimony has already been introduced, the relevance objection may be used on the grounds the testimony is needlessly cumulative.  Usually, it’s their time so let them waste it; unless the evidence is very hurtful to your case and you don’t want them to make their point again.  Don’t make this objection during redirect.
  11. 11. Rules relating to fairness Character: Rules 404, 405,  Rule 404a: evidence of a particular character trait in the past cannot be used as proof that a person would act a certain way at any certain time.  Evidence a defendant was a heavy drinker or drug user could not be used to prove they were drunk or high in the present case.
  12. 12. Rule 404a  A defendant in a criminal case may enter evidence of a specific character trait: peacefulness, cowardice, etc.  The defendant must offer this evidence before the prosecution can offer any evidence of a different character trait, i.e. temper or violence.  Once the defense has made an issue of character, the prosecution may rebut with similar proof.
  13. 13. Rule 404a  In civil cases where character of the plaintiff is an essential part of the claim, evidence may be shown by reputation, opinion, or specific conduct.  Evidence must be direct and not circumstantial (learned through the senses, not inferred).
  14. 14. Rule 404a  In criminal cases, the character of the victim is admissible by the defense, and by the prosecution to rebut the defense.
  15. 15. Rule 404a  The character of any witness may be questioned as it relates to the truth of their testimony.  The character of any witness, as it relates to their credibility, is also always relevant.  See Rules 607, 608, 609 relating to impeachment
  16. 16. Rule 404b  Proof of “prior bad acts”, or specific instances of doing some wrong, is not admissible to prove the person would have acted the same way or done the same wrong during the incident at issue.  Prior bad acts may be entered to help prove a motive, a plan, intent, etc.