CHAPTER 13: THE RULES OF EVIDENCE - Table of Contents
13.1 - General Overview • 13.2 - Judicial Notice and Presumptions • 13.3 - Relevancy • 13.4 - Privileges • 13.5 - Witnesses • 13.6 - Opinions and Expert Testimony • 13.7 - Hearsay • 13.8 - Exhibits • 13.9 - The Use of Other Offenses and Acts • 13.10 - Selected Special Rules • 13.11 - Colorado Rules of Evidence
Exhibits can be of great help in ensuring that the jury understands the testimony. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. A photograph of a crime scene is often far better than oral testimony in making the scene clear to the jury. The introduction of the murder weapon, or the defective seat belt, or other instrumentality of the crime of action, can give a jury a much more powerful connection to the case. Additionally, an exhibit that is admitted into evidence goes back into the jury room with the jury during deliberations, so an exhibit may retain persuasive power after the oral arguments have faded from memory.
There are two basic types of exhibits. Real evidence has probative value in and of itself because it is part of the crime, claim or defense. The gun in a murder case, the stolen television in a burglary case and the defective car seat in a products liability suit are all examples of real evidence. Demonstrative evidence, on the other hand, has no inherent probative value, but helps explain the crime, claim or defense to the jury. A photograph showing the crime scene, or a computer generated re-creation of an accident are examples of demonstrative evidence.
A proposed exhibit, whether real or demonstrative evidence, can be admitted into evidence once the proponent establishes that the exhibit is what the proponent claims it to be. For example, the police officer who seized the murder weapon from the crime scene will testify as to that seizure and as to the precautions taken to keep the weapon secure. A photograph of the scene of an accident can be admitted into evidence once a witness testifies that the photograph is a fair and accurate depiction of the scene.
Establishing that the exhibit is what the proponent claims it to be is called laying a foundation. The opponent of an exhibit who believes that the foundation is inadequate may object, and may ask questions (in a process with the same name as jury selection, voir dire) of the foundation witness. The trial court decides whether an adequate foundation has been laid. The rules of evidence express a clear preference for admitting evidence, and then letting the jury decide how much credit to give the evidence. A trial judge will often reject attacks on a particular exhibit by holding that the objections go to the weight, not the admissibility, of the evidence.
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