Watch an Evidence Class
Watch an excerpt from Professor Erica Hashimoto's Evidence class.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Alright so we’re going to start this morning with the Ernestein James case, United States versus James, and as you remember Ms. James is on trial for aiding and embedding the murder of her ex-boyfriend David Augden. And our disputed evidence here is that Ms. James wants to testify at trial that David Augden told her that he had threatened an old man at knife point, he threatended to cut the old man’s eyes out and he stabbed another guy with a pen and he had knocked another person unconscious with a rear-view mirror. Alright Ms. Hall, you’re representing the government here. What’s your objection to this testimony by Ernestein James?
[Student 1, Ms. Hall:] I’d go to hearsay.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Hearsay. Alright Mr. Corillo, what’s your response to that?
[Student 2, Mr. Corillo] That the evidence isn’t offered for the truth of the matter asserted.
[Professor Hashimoto:] And why is it not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted? What’s your theory of relevance that is not for the truth of the matter?
[Student 2, Mr. Corillo] Well, Ernestein James would have had this reasonable fear of Augden regardless of whether the stories he told her were true.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Why?
[Student 2, Mr. Corillo] The only thing that’s relevant is whether or not she believed him, it doesn’t matter if they’re true. If she believed the stories, even if they were completely false, then she could still have the reasonable fear of him.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Ok so even if David Augden was lying to Ernestein James when he said to her that he had threatened to cut somebody’s eyes out, it still would have caused her reason to be scared, and therefore the statement is not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Alright Ms. Hall, objection overruled. What’s your next objection?
[Student 1, Ms. Hall:] I’m going to go to a 403 prejudice argument.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Alright what’s your 403 argument?
[Student 1, Ms. Hall:] Under rule 403, I would say that the prejudice that the jury is going to have against the victim is going to substantially outweigh any purpotive value of these statements. They’re going to show the jury that the victim was this bad man and want to hold that against him and possibly misuse the evidence to let Ms. James get off just scott free for her crime.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Alright so we have a 403 objection, a risk of unfair prejudice, this risk that the jury to use Ms. Hall’s words, is gonna dislike David Augden. And we could probably insert some stronger words in there, right, this is a guy whose threatening to cut people’s eyes out with a knife. The jury may well more than dislike David Augden. Alright what’s your response Mr. Corillo?
[Student 2, Mr. Corillo] The purpotive value of this evidence is very high because this evidence directly shows that she had a reasonable fear of Augden. Any prejudice, to the extent there is prejudice, is not unfair, and given that the purpotive value is so high, whatever prejudice there is does not substantially outweigh the purpotive value.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Alright Ms. Hall, Mr. Corillo says this isn’t unfair prejudice, this is just your basic run of the mill prejudice. What makes this prejudice unfair?
[Student 1, Ms. Hall:] There’s a substantial risk that the jury’s going to misuse the information and hate the victim so much that they’re going to go to jury nullification.
[Professor Hashimoto:] Alright, and that would be misuse of this information. If the jury takes this information and says look, we think David Augden was a violent person, we don’t care whether Ernestein James believed him or not, we don’t care whether Ernestein James actually was in fear for her life when she handed her daughter the gun, instead we just think David Augden deserved to die. If that’s what the jury does with this evidence, that’s misuse of the evidence and that’s the risk of unfair prejudice that Ms. Hall is worried about.