Articles Posted in Evidence

We do a lot of military sexual assault cases with alcohol involved.  It is not unusual for a complaining witness to claim they were drunk, blacked out and didn’t consent.

First, if blacked out they can’t know they didn’t consent–it’s impossible if they were blacked out, rather than them exhibiting a convenient and selective memory.

Second, we know from medical science that a person can do a whole lot of things which does include the voluntary, and apparently consensual engagement is sexual activity.  Here is an example, out of many, how a person can engage in a lot of thoughtful and physical activity and not remember it.

Several relevant items for you this weekend.

Orin Kerr has this post at The Volokh Conspiracy. In part:

Computer searches usually happen in two stages. Agents take the computer, make a mirror image copy of its hard drive on a government storage device, and then search the image. Officers do this to ensure the integrity of the original data. Searching can alter the contents on the computer, so working from a copy preserves the original.

The NMCCA has issued an interesting published opinion on a government appeal.

United States v. Rios.  From the opinion.

  • The appellee is currently facing trial by special court-martial on numerous charges regarding larceny from the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) on Camp Pendleton, California.

Worth-the-read is A PRELIMINARY DRAFT OF Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence, is the source for the ABA article I just posted about ancient documents.

There is another proposal in the Draft relevant to technology.  The drafters are suggesting changing FRE 902, which as we know will likely change MRE 902 18 months later (absent action from the Prez.).

902 (13) Certified Records Generated by an Electronic Process or System.  A record generated by an electronic process or system that produces an accurate result, as shown by a certification of a qualified person that complies with the certification requirements of Rule 902(11) or (12). The proponent must also meet the notice requirements of Rule 902(11).

The abundance of electronically stored documents is spurring a committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference to propose abolishing the “ancient documents” rule.

The rule—803(16) of the Federal Rules of Evidence—allows the admission of documents that would usually be banned as hearsay if the documents are at least 20 years old and appear authentic. The National Law Journal (sub. req.) has a story on the proposal to scrap the rule.

A committee report (PDF) said the rule “has always been questionable” but it has been tolerated because it is infrequently used, and usually in cases where there is no other evidence on point.

There are some interesting articles for military justice practitioners in the Summer 2015, MLR.

Barracks, Dormitories, and Capitol Hill: Finding Justice in the Divergent Politics of Military and College Sexual Assault
3.  By Major Robert E. Murdough.pdf
Rudderless: 15 Years and Still Little Direction on the Boundaries of Military Rule of Evidence 513
4.  By Major Michael Zimmerman.pdf
Open-Ended Pharmaceutical Alibi: The Army’s Quest to Limit the Duration of Controlled Substances for Soldiers
5.  By Major Malcolm Wilkerson.pdf
A Better Understanding of Bullying and Hazing in the Military
7.  By Major Stephen M. Hernandez.pdf

Regardless of the type of case, motive to falsely testify of a primary witness is almost always of some relevance.  The recent case of Nappi v. Yelich, from the Tenth highlights that.

The Sixth Amendment’s confrontation right, which applies equally to defendants in state prosecutions, “means more than being allowed to confront the witness physically.”  Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315 (1974).  It includes a right of cross-examination, which provides “the principle means by which the believability of a witness and the truth of his [or her] testimony are tested.”  Id. at 316; see also Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 52 (1987) . . ..  To be sure, a trial judge has discretion to limit or preclude inquiry into collateral, repetitive, or “unduly harassing” subjects.  Davis, 415 U.S. at 316.  But this discretion has limits and “the exposure of a witness’ motivation in testifying is a proper and important function of the constitutionally protected right of cross‐examination.”  Id. at 316‐17.

The state court’s conclusion that cross‐examination of the state’s main witness’ motive for testifying was a collateral matter was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent.  See Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 679 (1989) (ruling that preventing cross‐examination on a subject the “jury might reasonably have found furnished the witness a motive for favoring the prosecution in his testimony” violated the defendant’s Confrontation Clause right); Brinson v. Walker, 547 F.3d 387, 392 (2d Cir. 2008) .

As a defense counsel, I’m always looking for ways in which the prosecutor has opened the door to relevant evidence, but which for some reasons has been excluded or can’t be offered.  MRE 412 comes to mind, as happened to me at trial in United States v. Savala, 70 M.J. 70 (C.A.A.F. 2011).

But, BUT, as a defense counsel, I’m equally conscious of how I can do something to open the door.  I might have successfully litigated a motion in limine to exclude evidence.  But now I have the key and have to be careful I don’t give it to the prosecution to use.

There are other ways the defense can open the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence.  United States v. Martin just decided by NMCCA is a case in point.  Although the appellate court ultimately found the proescutions questions plainly wrong, the damage was done and they court found no prejudice.

The Washington Post has a report today:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

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