Federal Rules of Evidence

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DISCUSSION FORUM _ LESSON 4

1. Summarize the Federal Rules of Evidence in your own words.

The Federal Rules of Evidence (F.R.E.) enacted in 1975 and replaced prior centuries of various and sundry judge made caselaw. The F.R.E. is a complex set of statutes or penal codes legislated with the intent of replacing unfair evidentiary submission and/or unnecessary expense and delay among the courts. The basic concept behind the F.R.E. is the need for a consistent and predictable federal rule set that would promote fairness and ensure justice. These rules also allow a measure of consistency and reliability applied in a civil or criminal matter.

Indicate in your post whether the following pieces of evidence would be admissible or inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence:

2. During a trial, an eyewitness was asked if they had ever been arrested. Is this a proper question? Why or why not? Cite the Federal Rule of Evidence that governs this issue.
This may or may not be a proper question, again, depending upon context and the judge. However, a witness may not be accredited until he has first been impeached. Under the federal rules, any party may impeach any witness at any time. Fed. Rules Evid. 607. A witness's credibility could traditionally be impeached by inquiry into any of nine areas. The first four of these nine areas relate to the requirements of competence. They are: 1. The firmness and sincerity of the witness's belief that any violation of his oath could have eternal consequences. (Although, this method is probably no longer applicable) Fed. Rules Evid. 610. 2. The quality of witness's perception or ability to perceive. 3. The witness's ability to remember.

4. The accuracy of the witness's communication of what he perceived.

The cross-examiner may always inquire into these four areas without having any basis whatever for believing that there is any infirmity in the witness's testimony. For example, one could ask a witness "Isn't it a fact that without your glasses you are legally blind?" without having any reason to believe that the witness's eyesight is anything but perfect, though this might not be wise.

In addition, extrinsic evidence, which in these circumstances is evidence other than the answers of the witness whose testimony is being impeached, may always be offered to prove facts relevant to these first four methods of impeachment. Thus, whether or not you ask a witness whether it was too dark for him to see, and whether or not he denies it, you may call another witness or offer other evidence to show that it was in fact too dark for him to have seen what he says he did.

The other five ways to attack credibility are to attempt to show: 1. Bias, prejudice, interest, or corruption,
2. Certain criminal convictions,
3. Prior bad acts,
4. Prior inconsistent statements, or
5. Untruthful character.

The first four of these methods require that, before the witness is questioned concerning the relevant facts, counsel have a good faith basis to believe that the facts to be asked about are true. These methods differ with respect to when extrinsic evidence is permitted to prove the facts based upon which the witness's credibility is being attacked. It is error not to allow inquiry into possible bias, prejudice, interest, or corruption. In addition, extrinsic evidence of bias is always admissible.

Under the federal rules, a witness may generally be questioned about criminal convictions when the crime was punishable by a sentence of more than a year or involved fraud or false statement. There are other limits relating to the age of the conviction, to a witness who is also the accused in a criminal case, and to juvenile adjudications that you should learn before you attempt to offer such evidence. If the witness denies a criminal conviction, it may only be proved by offering a certified record of the conviction.

The federal rules allow questions about prior bad acts of a...
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