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C o u r t r o o m®

Game of Legal Intrigue

 

Rules of Evidence



Rules of Evidence Card 2


PRIVILEGE


No one can refuse to be a witness or give testimony. However, certain communications are privileged. For instance, a wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband, and vice-versa. Former spouses are also protected from revelation of confidential communications.

Other privileged communications are those between a lawyer and his client, between a doctor or psychotherapist and his patient, and a member of the clergy and a penitent.

Witnesses may also refuse to disclose trade secrets, political votes, the identity of informers, and confidential state secrets (classified information).


CHARACTER


In general, evidence of a person's character is inadmissible to prove conduct on a particular occasion. Exceptions In Proving Conduct:
  1. Past felony convictions, and those misdemeanor convictions which involve dishonesty, can be used to prove conduct.
  2. Evidence may be offered of the good reputation of a defendant.
  3. Evidence may be elicited of the poor character of an alleged victim or specific relevant instances of conduct by him.
  4. Reputation, opinion and specific acts are admissible where the defendant's character is an essential element of the Issue at hand.
  5. Evidence of a particular business routine or personal habit is admissible to prove conduct on a particular occasion was in conformity with that habit or routine.


OPINION


Opinion testimony falls into two categories - expert and non-expert.

Non-expert opinions and conclusions are permitted if they are rationally based on the perception of the witness, and helpful to a clear understanding of his testimony or the determination of a fact at issue.

Allowable non-expert testimony includes perceptions of measurements (height, weight, speed, distances); sensory descriptions (odors, sounds, colors, taste, temperature); physical, emotional and mental conditions of others and oneself (intoxication, sanity, injury, fear, sorrow); personal history; identifications (persons, handwriting); and value of one's own property or services ("My jewelry was worth $4500.")

Not allowable - split second judgements and perceptions, and legal conclusions (alcoholic, specific injury or psychological diagnosis)

Sometimes Allowable - Testimony giving an opinion of the meaning of another's conduct ("nodding yes," "started a fight").

To qualify as an expert, a witness must have special experience or training in the subject to which the opinion relates. An expert may rely upon hearsay testimony.

Exception - the expert may not give an opinion about the mental state of the defendant if it is an essential element of the crime or issue to be proved.




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