Friday, February 27, 2009

A Constitutional Right to Offer Character Evidence?

An important dictum noted by Joannes Untalan Vinarao-Pilapil:

United States v. Williams, 458 F.3d 312, 317 n. 5 (3d Cir. 2006):

We acknowledge that there might be cases in which an application of Rule 404(b)'s prohibition against propensity evidence arguably encroaches on a defendant's right to present a full defense. See Crane v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 683, 690, 106 S. Ct. 2142, 90 L. Ed. 2d 636 (1986) (holding that "the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The Advisory Committee Notes following Rule 401 explain that rules such as Rule 404 and those that follow are meant to prohibit certain types of evidence that are otherwise clearly "relevant evidence," but that nevertheless create more prejudice and confusion than is justified by their probative value. This, however, is a sweeping and non-individualized judgment, and the drafters have provided exceptions to this general rule for certain types of crimes. See Rules 413, 414 & 415, Federal Rules of Evidence (providing that evidence of the defendant's commission of an offense of sexual assault or child molestation is admissible for any purpose). Under exceptional circumstances, therefore, it could plausibly be argued that a defendant has a constitutional right to present propensity evidence otherwise barred by Rule 404(b). See Holmes v. South Carolina, 126 S. Ct. 1727, 1731- 1733, 164 L. Ed. 2d 503 (2006) (observing that "state and federal rulemakers have broad latitude under the Constitution to establish rules excluding evidence from criminal trials" and that rules restricting the ability of a defendant to offer evidence that another person committed a crime are "widely accepted," but that evidence rules that significantly infringe upon the interest of the accused and are disproportionate to the purposes they are designed to serve are impermissible). But we need not reach this question here...

the dynamic evidence page

coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

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