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Any matter of fact that a party to a lawsuit offers to prove or disprove an issue in the case. A system of rules and standards that is used to determine which facts may be admitted, and to what extent a judge or jury may consider those facts, as proof of a particular issue in a lawsuit.

Until 1975, the law of evidence was largely a creature of the Common Law: Evidence rules in most jurisdictions were established by cases rather than by organized, official codifications. Legal scholars long pushed for legislation to provide uniformity and predictability to the evidentiary issues that arise during litigation. Following a lengthy campaign begun by the American Law Institute, which drafted its Model rules of evidence in 1942, and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Rules, which drafted the Uniform Rules of Evidence in 1953, Congress in 1975 adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Federal Rules of Evidence are the official rules in federal court proceedings. Most states now also have codified rules of evidence based on these federal rules. Both state and federal rules of evidence serve as a guide for judges and attorneys so that they can determine whether to admit evidence—that is, whether to allow evidence to be observed by the judge or jury making factual conclusions in a trial.

One important benchmark of admissibility is relevance. Federal Rule of Evidence 402 states, in part, "All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided." The goal of this rule is to allow parties to present all of the evidence that bears on the issue to be decided, and to keep out all evidence that is immaterial or that lacks Probative value. Evidence that is offered to help prove something that is not at issue is immaterial. For example, the fact that a defendant attends church every week is immaterial, and thus irrelevant, to a charge of running a red light. Probative value is a tendency to make the existence of any material fact more or less probable. For instance, evidence that a murder defendant ate spaghetti on the day of the murder would normally be irrelevant because people who eat spaghetti are not more or less likely to commit murder, as compared with other people. However, if spaghetti sauce were found at the murder scene, the fact that the defendant ate spaghetti that day would have probative value and thus would be relevant evidence.


The most common form of evidence is the testimony of witnesses. A witness can be a person who actually viewed the crime or other event at issue, or a witness can be a person with other relevant information—someone who heard a dog bark near the time of a murder, or who saw an allegedly injured plaintiff lifting weights the day after his accident, or who shared an office with the defendant and can describe her character and personality. Any competent person may testify as a witness, provided that the testimony meets other requirements, such as relevancy.

The Federal Rules of Evidence contain broad competency requirements. To testify, a witness must swear or affirm that he or she will testify truthfully; possess personal knowledge of the subject matter of the testimony; have the physical and mental capacity to perceive accurately, record, and recollect fact impressions; and possess the capacity to understand questions and to communicate understandably, with an interpreter if necessary. When an issue of state law is being determined, the state rules of evidence govern the competency of a witness. States that have not adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence may have other grounds for Incompetency, such as mental incapacity, immaturity, religious beliefs, and criminal convictions. The Federal Rules of Evidence and most jurisdictions state that jurors and presiding judges are not competent to testify in the case before them.

To be admissible, testimony must be limited to matters of which the witness has personal knowledge, meaning matters that the witness learned about using any of his or her senses. Second, the witness must declare under oath or affirmation that the testimony will be truthful. The purpose of this requirement is to "awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the duty to [be truthful]" (Fed. R. Evid. 603). The oath or affirmation requirement also serves as a ground for perjury if the witness does not testify truthfully. Although the oath frequently invokes the name of God, the witness need not possess any religious beliefs; a secular affirmation is sufficient.

Witnesses may be called to testify by any party to the lawsuit. The party who calls a witness to testify generally questions the witness first, in what is known as direct examination. The judge may exercise reasonable control over the questioning of witnesses in order "(1) to make the interrogation and presentation effective for the ascertainment of the truth; (2) to avoid needless consumption of time, and (3) to protect the witnesses from harassment, or undue embarrassment" (Fed. R. Evid. 611(a)). Thus, the judge may prevent a witness from rambling in a narrative fashion and may require an attorney to ask specific questions in order to ascertain the truth quickly and effectively.

The federal rules and most jurisdictions discourage the use of leading questions on direct examination. These are questions that are designed to elicit a particular answer by suggesting it. For example, the question "Didn't the defendant then aim the gun at the police officer?" is a leading question, and normally it would not be permitted on direct examination. By contrast, "What did the defendant do next?" is a nonleading question that would be permitted on direct examination. In most cases, questions that can be answered with either "Yes" or "No" are considered to be leading questions. Courts generally will permit leading questions during direct examination if the witness is adverse or hostile toward the questioning party.

Leading questions are permitted, and are common practice, during cross-examination. Once a party conducts a direct examination, the opposing party is entitled to cross-examine the same witness. The scope of questions asked during cross-examination is limited to the subject matter that was covered during direct examination, and any issues concerning the witness's credibility. Attorneys use cross-examination for many purposes, including eliciting from a witness favorable facts; having the witness modify, explain, or qualify unfavorable versions of disputed facts elicited during direct examination; and impeaching, or discrediting, the witness.

If a witness is a lay witness (i.e., not testifying as an expert), the witness generally may testify as to facts and not as to opinions or inferences, unless the opinions or inferences are "(a) rationally based on the perception of the witness and (b) helpful to a clear understanding of the witness' testimony or the determination of a fact in issue" (Fed. R. Evid.). For example, a witness may not testify that she smelled marijuana unless she can sufficiently establish that she knows what marijuana smells like. Lay witnesses commonly testify about such things as the speed that a car was going, or someone's approximate age, but these types of inferences are less likely to be permitted the more closely they address critical issues in the case.

Expert Witnesses

"If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise" (Fed. R. Evid. 702). The admissibility of Expert Testimony hinges on whether such testimony would help the judge or jury, and whether the witness is properly qualified as an expert. Expert witnesses may, and usually do, testify in the form of an opinion. The opinion must be supported by an adequate foundation of relevant facts, data, or opinions, rather than by conjecture. Thus, an expert frequently relies on firsthand or secondhand observations of facts, data, or opinions perceived prior to trial, or presented at trial during testimony or during a hypothetical question posed by an attorney. Courts do not require experts to have firsthand knowledge of facts, data, or opinions because experts in the field do not always rely on such firsthand knowledge. For instance, physicians routinely make diagnoses based on information from several sources, such as hospital records, X-ray reports, and opinions from other physicians.

When an expert offers a scientific fact as substantive evidence or as the basis of his or her opinion, the court must determine the reliability of the scientific fact by looking at such things as the validity of the underlying scientific principle, the validity of the technique applying that principle, adherence to proper procedures, the condition of instruments used in the process, and the qualifications of those who perform the test and interpret the results. Issues frequently arise over such scientific tools and techniques as lie detectors, DNA testing, and hypnosis. Some scientific tests, such as drug tests, radar, and Paternity blood tests, generally are accepted as reliable, and their admissibility may be provided for by statute.

In Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael 526 U.S. 137, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (U.S.Ala., Mar 23, 1999) (NO. 97-1709), a tire on the vehicle driven by Carmichael blew out, and the vehicle overturned, killing one passenger and injuring others. The survivors and decedent's representative brought a diversity suit against Kumho, the tire's maker, and its distributor. Their claim that the tire was defective relied mainly upon the depositions of a tire-failure analyst, whose expert testimony was to have been that a defect in the tire's manufacture or design caused the blow-out. The expert's opinion was based upon an inspection of the tire and upon the theory that in the absence of certain symptoms indicating tire abuse, a failure of the sort that occurred was caused by a defect. Kumho moved to exclude the expert's testimony, claiming that his methodology failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which does not distinguish between "scientific" knowledge and "technical" or "other specialized" knowledge. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the trial judge has the power to test the reliability of all expert testimony, whether by a scientific expert or by an expert who is not a scientist. The court held that Rule 702 does not address the testimony of scientists only, but that it applies to any type of expert testimony.

The American Medical Association maintains guidelines for physicians who testify both as treating physician experts and as nontreating expert witnesses. Many state medical associations also have guidelines for doctors who testify.


The credibility of any witness's testimony depends upon three factors: (1) whether the witness accurately perceived what he or she described; (2) whether the witness retained an accurate memory of that perception; and (3) whether the witness's narration accurately conveys that perception. In order to be allowed to testify, the witness generally must take an oath, must be personally present at the trial, and must be subjected to cross-examination. These conditions promote the factors that lend themselves to the witness's credibility. The rule against Hearsay further bolsters the oath, personal presence, and cross-examination requirements.

Hearsay is a statement, made out of court, offered in court to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The statement may be oral or written, or it may be nonverbal conduct intended as an assertion, such as pointing to a crime suspect in a police line-up. The act of pointing in response to a request for identification is the same as stating, "He did it." Not all nonverbal conduct is intended as an assertion, of course. For example, a person usually opens an umbrella to stay dry, not to make the assertion, "It is raining."

Sometimes, statements made out of court are not hearsay because they are not offered for the purpose of proving the truth of the matter asserted. For example, suppose that a man who


Evidentiary Objections

At every trial or hearing requiring the admission of evidence, attorneys have the duty to object to evidence that the rules of court deem inadmissible. Objections must be made in a timely fashion, as soon as the witness or opposing party attempts to improperly introduce evidence. An attorney who fails to immediately recognize and object to inadmissible evidence faces serious consequences: the evidence may be admitted for the judge or jury to consider, and should the case be appealed, the appellate court will allow it to stand as admitted. On the other hand, an attorney who makes frequent objections to proper, admissible evidence runs the risk of alienating the jury or angering the judge. A trial lawyer therefore must learn to quickly recognize and correctly object to inadmissible evidence.

Once an attorney objects, the judge must decide whether to sustain the objection and disallow the evidence, or overrule the objection and permit the evidence. To assist this decision, the attorney must generally tell the judge the legal basis for the objection.

Objections to Questions
Objection Legal Basis
Calls for an irrelevant answer The answer to the question would not make the existence of any consequential fact more or less probable.
Calls for an immaterial answer The answer to the question would have no logical bearing on an issue in the case.
Is asked of an incompetent witness The witness is disqualified by statute from testifying, owing to age, lack of knowledge, or mental illness.
Violates the best evidence rule The original document, rather than testimony, contains the best evidence.
Calls for privileged communication The information sought is Privileged Communication, such as that between attorney and client, physician and patient, or husband and wife, and is barred from disclosure.
Calls for a conclusion The question improperly asks the witness to reach a legal conclusion, which is a job reserved for the judge or jury.
Calls for an opinion. Generally, only expert witnesses may render their opinions; lay witnesses must testify only regarding their observations.
Calls for a narrative answer. Witnesses must respond concisely to individual questions, not give a long, rambling explanation.
Calls for hearsay The answer would be inadmissible hearsay.
Is leading. The questioning attorney may not frame a question in such a way that it suggests the answer.
Is repetitive (or has already been asked and answered) The question has already been asked and answered.
Is beyond the scope On cross-examination, questions normally may not address matters not covered on direct examination.
Assumes facts not in evidence Part of the question assumes that certain facts are true, when such facts have not been admitted into evidence or their existence is in dispute.
Is confusing (or misleading or ambiguous or vague or unintelligible) A question must be posed in a manner that is specific and clear enough that the witness reasonably knows what information the examiner seeks.
Calls for speculation Questions that ask the witness to guess or speculate are improper.
Is compound The question brings up two or more separate facts, and any simple answer would be unclear.
Is argumentative The question is essentially an argument to the judge or jury; it elicits no new information but rather states a conclusion and asks the witness to agree with it.
Is an improper characterization For example, the question calls the defendant a spoiled brat, greedy pig, or frenzied dog; characterization is something the jury or judge, not a witness or attorney, should infer.
Mistakes evidence (or misquotes the witness) Misstating or distorting evidence, or misquoting a witness, is improper.
Is cumulative When numerous witnesses testify to the same facts or numerous exhibits demonstrate the same things, without adding anything new, the evidence is objectionable.
Constitutes an improper impeachment Rules surrounding the impeachment of a person's character or credibility are highly technical. For example, evidence of a prior inconsistent statement made by a witness may be used only if the statement is materially inconsistent and is offered in the proper context.
Violates the parol evidence rule The Parol Evidence rule bars evidence of oral, or verbal, modifications or contradictions of a written contract that is complete and clear on its face.
Is unresponsive (or volunteered) An answer that does not directly respond to a question is objectionable as unresponsive; an answer that goes beyond what is necessary to answer the question is objectionable as volunteered. Only the attorney who called the witness may object on these grounds.

Objections to Answers

Is irrelevant

Is immaterial

Is privileged

Is a conclusion

Is improper opinion

Is hearsay

Is narrative

Is improper characterization

Objections to Exhibits
Objection Legal Basis
Lacks proper foundation (or lacks foundation, or has no foundation) Before exhibits can be admitted into evidence, attorneys must establish the necessary foundation, or the facts that indicate the exhibit is what it purports to be. For a photograph of a crime scene, this might include calling the person who took the picture as a witness and asking whether she was at the crime scene, had a camera, and took a picture, and whether the exhibit is that picture.
Lacks authentication Writings and conversations must be authenticated, or shown to have been executed by a party or that party's agent. For example, before testifying about a telephone conversation, a witness must demonstrate his knowledge of who was speaking on the other end of the telephone.
Is prejudicial The exhibit's prejudicial effect outweighs its Probative value. This objection is often raised with photo exhibits. A color photo of a murder victim may so prejudice the jury, without adding information helpful to determining the murderer, that the judge may disallow the photo as evidence.
Contains inadmissible matter Exhibits in the forms of charts, diagrams, and maps must not disclose otherwise inadmissible material to the jury. For example, in most jurisdictions, evidence that a defendant in a personal injury case has insurance that may pay for the plaintiff's damages is inadmissible. A chart, shown to the jury, that conveys the name of the defendant's insurance company is improper and objectionable.
Is irrelevant
Is immaterial
Contains hearsay

Nonevidentiary Objections

Attorneys may also object to situations that arise during a trial or hearing that do not concern matters of evidence. During Voir Dire, or jury selection, attorneys may not argue to prospective jurors the law or the facts that will arise at trial; if they do, they will likely receive an objection from opposing counsel. Likewise, attorneys often object to arguments made during opening statements, because opening statements are limited to a discussion of the evidence that will be presented during the trial. An attorney's personal opinion on any evidentiary matter is also objectionable because it places the attorney's credibility directly at issue. And a personal attack by an attorney against a party, witness, or opposing counsel is unprofessional and will almost always result in a sustainable objection.

Further readings

Park, Roger C. 2001. Trial Objections Handbook 2d. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group.

claims that a collision between his car and a truck rendered him unconscious files a lawsuit against the truck driver for Negligence. The truck driver wishes to introduce as evidence a statement that the man made seconds after the accident: "I knew I should have gotten my brakes fixed; they haven't been working for weeks!" If the purpose of offering the statement is only to prove that the man was conscious and talking following the accident, the statement is not hearsay. However, if the statement is offered to prove that the man's brakes were not working and therefore that he caused the accident, then the statement is offered for its truth, and it is hearsay.

The Federal Rules of Evidence state generally that hearsay is not admissible evidence. The reason is that it is impractical, and in most cases simply impossible, to cross-examine the declarant of an out-of-court statement, or to have the declarant take an oath prior to making the statement. Thus, the credibility of an out-of-court statement cannot be easily ascertained. But the hearsay doctrine is extremely complex. Under the federal rules, for example, most admissions of guilt are not considered hearsay and are therefore admissible, even though they might be stated out of court and then offered as evidence. The federal rules list more than 25 exceptions to the general hearsay prohibition. These exceptions apply to circumstances believed to produce trustworthy assertions.

Some exceptions to the hearsay rule require that the person who made the statement be unavailable to testify at trial. One example of this is when a person who is mortally wounded makes a statement about the cause of her death, just before dying. Under this hearsay exception, the victim's statement assigning guilt or causation is made admissible because the victim is not available to testify at trial, and the need for the information is given greater weight than the fear that she lied. Some have argued that the Dying Declaration exception exists at least in part because of the belief that persons would not waste their last breaths to utter a falsehood. One federal court commented, "More realistically, the dying declaration is admitted because of compelling need for the statement, rather than any inherent trustworthiness" (United States v. Thevis, 84 F.R.D. 57 [N.D. Ga. 1979]). This exception proved noteworthy in the October 1995 trial and ultimate conviction of Yolanda Saldivar, who was accused of gunning down tejana singing star Selena Quintanilla Perez in a Corpus Christi, Texas, motel. Motel employees testified that Selena's last words before collapsing and dying were, "Lock the door! She'll shoot me again!" and "Yolanda Saldivar in Room 158." Saldivar received a sentence of life in prison following her conviction of murdering the 23-year-old recording artist.

Under some circumstances, the availability of the declarant to testify is immaterial. For example, the excited-utterance exception to the hearsay rule allows the admission of an out-of-court statement "relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition" (Fed. R. Evid.803(2)). The premise for this exception is that excitement caused by the event or condition leaves a declarant without sufficient time or capacity for reflection to fabricate, thus the statement is considered truthful. An example of an admissible excited utterance is the statement, "Look out! That green truck is running a red light and is headed toward that school bus!" Other examples of hearsay exceptions include statements of medical diagnosis, birth and marriage certificates, business records, and statements regarding a person's character or reputation.

Authentication and Identification

Evidence is not relevant unless its authenticity can be demonstrated. A letter in which the defendant admits her guilt in a tax-fraud trial is inadmissible unless the prosecution can first show that the defendant actually wrote it. Blood-stained clothing is irrelevant without some connection to the issues of the trial, such as evidence that the clothing belonged to the accused murderer. The process of linking a piece of evidence to a case—of authenticating or identifying the evidence—is frequently referred to as laying a foundation. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a foundation is sufficient if a reasonable juror would find it more probably true than not true that the evidence is what the party offering it claims it to be.

The most basic way to lay an evidentiary foundation is to demonstrate that a witness has personal knowledge. For example, the witness may testify that he wrote the letter, or that he saw the plaintiff sign the contract, or that he found the bullet in the kitchen. When the evidence is an object, the witness must testify that the object introduced at the trial is in substantially the same condition as it was when it was witnessed.

Objects that are not readily identifiable often must be authenticated through chain-of-command testimony. In the case of a blood sample, a proper foundation would include testimony from each individual who handled the blood—from the nurse who drew the blood, to the lab technician who tested it, to the courier who delivered it to the courthouse for trial. Unless each individual can testify that the blood sample's condition remained substantially the same from the time it was drawn until the time it was offered as evidence (accounting for any loss in amount, due to testing), the court could sustain an objection from the other side. The sample then would be inadmissible for lack of authentication.

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, some evidentiary items are self-authenticating and need no additional authentication before being admitted. Documents containing the official seal of a government unit within the United States, and certified copies of public records such as birth certificates, are self-authenticating, as are newspapers and congressional documents.

Polygraph Tests

In United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303, 118 S.Ct. 1261, 140 L.Ed.2d 413 (U.S., Mar 31, 1998) (NO. 96-1133), the U. S. Supreme Court upheld a military court evidence rule, Rule 707, which prohibits the use of Polygraph, or lie detector, test results in military trials. Scheffer, a military investigator, took a routine urine test, which came back positive for amphetamines. Scheffer then asked for, and was given, a polygraph test which showed that he had no knowledge of amphetamine use. At his trial on drug-use charges based on the urine test, Scheffer tried to introduce evidence of his favorable lie-detector results. The court refused to admit this evidence on the basis of military evidence Rule 707. Scheffer appealed, claiming that he should have been able to introduce the test results as part of his constitutional right "to prepare a defense". The Court upheld the exclusion of the lie-detector test on the grounds that there is too much controversy about the reliability of lie-detector test results; that lie-detector tests might undercut the role of the jury in assessing witness credibility; and that lie-detector tests create too much possibility of side issues about the reliability of the test.

The Best-Evidence Rule

The Best-evidence rule is a misleading name for the courts' preference for original writings, recordings, and photographs over copies, when the contents are sought to be proved. The purpose of this rule at common law was to avoid the potential for inaccuracies contained in handmade copies. The current rule contained in the Federal Rules of Evidence requires the use of original writings, recordings, and photographs (including X-rays and motion pictures), but the rule defines original to include most photocopies or prints from the same negative. The risk of inaccuracies from these types of duplicates is almost non-existent. When the original evidence is lost, destroyed, unobtainable, or in the possession of the opponent, the court will not require a party to produce the original.

Journalists' Privilege

In 1972, information leaked to the Washington Post by a confidential informant, set the stage for the fall of a U.S. president. A source they called "Deep Throat," told journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that several improprieties, including a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., had been orchestrated by a committee to reelect President richard m. nixon. News articles that Woodward and Bernstein wrote based on that information marked the beginning of Watergate, a scandal that led to Nixon's resignation in 1974 in the face of Impeachment. Almost 30 years later, the true identity of Deep Throat remains unknown.

Reliance on anonymous news sources can create problems when lawyers, judges, or juries seek information during a judicial proceeding. It is a basic principle in the U.S. legal system that "the public has a right to every [person's] evidence" (8 J. Wigmore, Evidence § 2192 [McNaughton rev. 1961]). With very few exceptions, individuals who possess knowledge or information that may help a judge or jury, must testify or produce the information in court. Journalistic privilege, where recognized, is the right of journalists to withhold from the court certain sources, notes, or materials used to gather news. It is not among the privileges commonly recognized by courts, such as Attorney-Client Privilege or marital privilege.

Since the 1850s, journalists have sought a privilege to protect the identity of news sources or to protect the newsgathering process from discovery at trial. As the number of reporters subpoenaed (ordered by a court to testify) increased dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s, so did their efforts. Reporters argue that to effectively gather vital information and disseminate it to the public, they must have the legal right to withhold the identity of a source. Without such a privilege, sources who fear the disclosure of their name will be less likely to talk with reporters. Reporters who fear Reprisal, or who simply do not wish to testify or hire a lawyer, will be less likely to print or broadcast sensitive information. Journalists argue that this chilling effect on reporters' willingness to print or broadcast sensitive information will ultimately harm the public, which relies on reporters to relay even the most sensitive and secretive news and information.

In resisting subpoenas, journalists usually invoke the First Amendment, which prohibits laws abridging a free press. Unlike the Fifth Amendment, which explicitly grants individuals the right to refuse to testify against themselves, the First Amendment contains no explicit language protecting journalists from having to testify. Nonetheless, reporters have long argued that the purpose of the First Amendment is to allow the news media to freely gather and report the news, without encumbrances by the government. Forcing reporters to testify, they argue, violates the First Amendment.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court rejected this argument in the landmark decision Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 92 S. Ct. 2646, 33 L. Ed. 2d 626 (1972). Branzburg involved the appeals of three reporters who had been ordered in three separate incidents to testify before a Grand Jury (a jury convened to determine whether to indict a criminal suspect). In all three cases, prosecutors wanted to know what the reporters had observed or to whom they had spoken. One reporter had written an article about the process of converting marijuana into hashish; the other two were covering the militant Black Panther organization, believed to be planning guerrilla warfare to support its cause. In all three cases, the reporters had promised to keep their sources' identities secret or not to divulge their observations. The reporters refused to answer certain questions and provide certain information, arguing that doing so would jeopardize or destroy their working relationships with news sources and, ultimately, their ability to disseminate vital information to the public. The Supreme Court pointed out that the duty to testify has roots as deep as the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press, and refused to find a First Amendment privilege protecting reporters from being forced to testify before a grand jury.

According to the Court in Branzburg, the First Amendment does not override all other public interests, or exempt reporters from the same obligations to testify imposed on other citizens, merely because the news-gathering process may become more difficult if confidential sources are revealed. "It is clear that the First Amendment does not invalidate every incidental burdening of the press that may result from the enforcement of civil or criminal statutes of general applicability," the Court stated. The Court also acknowledged the importance of a free press to the country's welfare, and recognized that to be effective, the First Amendment must protect not only the dissemination of information but the news-gathering process itself. Yet, the Court made the point that a requirement to testify or otherwise disclose information to a judicial body is not a prohibition on the press's ability to employ confidential sources. The Court stated, "[N]o attempt is made to require the press to publish its sources of information or indiscriminately to disclose them on request."

Justices Potter Stewart, william j. brennan jr., and Thurgood Marshall dissented in Branzburg, emphasizing that the independence of the press becomes threatened when journalists are called upon as "an investigative arm of government." When reporters are forced to testify in courtrooms, the three justices found, their constitutionally protected functions are impaired. Such impairment will, "in the long run, harm rather than help the administration of justice." The Court's dissenters stressed that the Constitution protects journalists not for the benefit of journalists but for the benefit of society. "Enlightened choice by an informed citizenry is the basic ideal upon which an open society is premised, and a free press is thus indispensable to a free society," stated the dissenting opinion.

The Branzburg decision held that the First Amendment does not protect journalists from grand jury subpoenas seeking evidence in criminal cases, and that there is no testimonial privilege for reporters who witness crimes. The decision did not address whether the Constitution protects reporters' notes, tape recordings, or other news-gathering items; whether there can be a privilege if there is no reason to think the reporter observed illegal activity; and whether reporters are entitled to a privilege in civil actions or other legal proceedings besides grand juries.

Despite the uncertainty, reporters since Branzburg have successfully invoked privileges. In some jurisdictions, they have been helped by Shield Laws, which are statutes allowing journalists to withhold certain information. Even in state jurisdictions without shield laws, many courts have upheld a reporter's claim of privilege using a three-part test championed in the Branzburg dissent: a reporter may be forced to reveal confidences only when the government demonstrates (1) that there is Probable Cause to believe that the journalist has information clearly relevant to a specific legal violation, (2) that the same information is not available by alternative means less destructive to the First Amendment, and (3) that there is a compelling and overriding interest in the information. Yet other courts have interpreted Branzburg as prohibiting state courts from creating reporter privileges at all (Caldero v. Tribune Publishing Co., 98 Idaho 288, 562 P.2d 791 [1977]; In re Roche, 381 Mass. 624, 411 N.E.2d 466 [1980]).

More than half the states have passed shield laws, making the reporters' privilege statutory. Shield laws range in their coverage: some protect only the identities of confidential sources; others protect everything from sources, notes, videotapes, and film negatives to the reporter's thought processes. At least 14 states and most federal jurisdictions recognize the privilege based on Common Law, state Constitutional Law, or the First Amendment. These jurisdictions generally apply a version of the three-part test outlined in the Branzburg dissent. Even where the privilege is recognized, it is rarely absolute. Courts may order reporters to disclose information under certain compelling circumstances, and a reporter who refuses to obey the court faces a charge of Contempt and fines or imprisonment.

Journalists react differently to the threat of incarceration. Los Angeles radio station manager Will Lewis, in 1973, initially refused to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena seeking the originals of a letter and a tape recording sent to him by radical groups claiming inside knowledge of the Kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Lewis was held in contempt and sent to Terminal Island Federal Prison, where he spent 16 days in solitary confinement before being released pending his appeal. He lost (In re Lewis, 377 F. Supp. 297 [C.D. Cal. 1974], aff'd 501 F.2d 418 [9th Cir.]). Faced with returning to prison, Lewis turned over the documents.

But William Farr, a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, spent two months in jail rather than name his source. Farr had received a copy of a deposition transcript from a prosecuting attorney in the case of serial murderer Charles Manson. The judge in the case had forbidden officers of the court to publicize the case, which contained particularly gruesome facts. When the judge ordered Farr to name the individual who leaked the information, Farr refused (Farr v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 22 Cal. App. 2d 60, 99 Cal. Rptr. 342 [Ct. App. 1971]).

Many reporters and their attorneys view the threat of contempt as an opportunity to educate the public on the issue. In 1990, Tim Roche was a 21-year-old reporter for a Florida newspaper, the Stuart News, when he was subpoenaed to disclose the name of a confidential source who had shown him a sealed (confidential) court order in a Child Custody battle. Roche refused to comply, maintaining that he had promised the source confidentiality. He was found in contempt of court and received a 30-day jail sentence.

Attorneys for Roche appealed, but both the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Roche then sought clemency (an act to lower or moderate the sentence) from Governor Lawton M. Chiles, of Florida. Chiles refused the plea for clemency, but offered Roche three hundred hours of community service as an alternative to jail. Roche declined the offer, stating that he would not compromise his principles, as he had done nothing wrong. The governor retorted that he also would not compromise his principles, and that no one is above the law. On March 16, 1993, Roche entered the Martin County Jail, where he served 19 days. National publicity surrounding Roche's plight led to the introduction and passage of a Florida bill designed to protect reporters and their confidential sources. Chiles, however, vetoed the Tim Roche Bill on May 14, 1993.

Vanessa Leggett holds the dubious distinction of being the journalist incarcerated for the longest period of time in United States history over such an issue. In 2001 and 2002, Leggett spent 168 days in federal detention in Texas, a state without a shield law, for refusing to comply with a sweeping subpoena for confidential source materials. Leggett had been working on a nonfiction book about the killing of Houston socialite Doris Angleton, who was found shot to death in April 1997. Mrs. Angleton's millionaire husband, Robert, was accused of paying his brother, Roger, to kill his wife. Both brothers were charged with capital murder. In the course of her research, Leggett conducted a series of prison interviews with Roger Angleton, who subsequently committed suicide.

Leggett initially turned over tapes of her interviews with Roger to a grand jury. However, after Robert Angleton was acquitted in state court, a federal investigation into his activities was launched. In November 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacted Leggett about becoming an informant. She declined, citing a possible loss of her integrity and objectivity as a reporter, and expressed a concern over the loss of confidentiality with her sources. Leggett was then subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury. She agreed to do so after the FBI assured her she would not have to reveal the sources of her information. However, the federal grand jury subpoenaed all of Leggett's tape-recorded conversations with anyone she had interviewed about the Angleton case. She claimed reporter's privilege protected her from being forced to disclose confidential sources. On July 6, 2001, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon ruled that the Fifth Circuit does not recognize such a privilege as protecting a journalist from divulging confidential or nonconfidential information in a criminal case. Leggett was ruled in contempt, and on July 20, 2001, was ordered imprisoned without bail for 18 months or until termination of the grand jury.

In August 2001, while avoiding the question of whether Leggett is a journalist entitled to a reporter's privilege (the government had argued she was not), the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the ruling that no reporter's privilege exists against a grand jury subpoena. In November 2001, the same court declined to reconsider the case or release Leggett on bond until she had exhausted her appeals. On January 2, 2002, Leggett's attorney filed an appeal on her behalf to the U.S. Supreme Court. Two days later, Leggett was released after the federal grand jury completed its term, in compliance with her original sentence.

Leggett's ordeal raised several important legal issues, including the definition of who is and who is not a journalist for purposes of claiming the privilege, the extent to which journalists are able to protect confidential sources in stories relating to criminal proceedings, the differences among state shield laws, and the lack of shield protection under federal law. Leggett also proved that journalists will risk jail sentences to protect their reputation as well as their sources: a reporter who is known to have identified a source after promising confidentiality may have a difficult time obtaining information from other sources in the future.

Opponents of the reporters' privilege, however, argue that journalists who ignore requests for evidentiary information breach other important societal interests. For example, the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a fair trial. This right is lost when a reporter who possesses information that may help prove the defendant's innocence refuses to testify. The same argument applies to society's interest in prosecuting criminals, who may go free when incriminating evidence is withheld by a journalist.

Further readings

Fargo, Anthony. 2003. "Evidence Mixed on Erosion of Journalists' Privilege." Newspaper Research Journal 24 (spring).

Kopel, David B., and Paul H. Blackman. 2002. "Abuse of Power: Jailing Journalists." National Review (January 22).

"Summer Mystery: Why Jail Vanessa Leggett?" 2002. Center for Informational Freedom. Available online at <www.cfif.org/htdocs/freedomline/current/america/free_line_summer.htm> (accessed September 2, 2003).


Freedom of the Press.

Judicial Notice

Some matters that are relevant to a trial are so obvious that a court will not require evidence to prove them—for example, that it is dark outside at midnight, or that April 30, 1995, fell on a Sunday. To prevent wasting a court's time, the rules of evidence permit courts to take Judicial Notice of such matters; that is, to accept them as true without formal evidentiary proof. Courts may take judicial notice of facts that are generally known to be true (e.g., that gasoline is flammable) or facts that are verifiable from dependable sources (e.g., that Des Moines, Iowa, is in Polk County, which can be verified on a map). As a matter of course, courts judicially notice the contents of laws of and within the United States.


It is a basic tenet in U.S. Jurisprudence that "the public … has a right to every [person's] evidence," and that parties in litigation should avail themselves of all rational means of ascer taining truth (Trammel v. United States, 445 U.S. 40, 100 S. Ct. 906, 63 L. Ed. 2d 186 [1980]). Yet courts view certain interests and relationships to be of such importance that they protect those interests and relationships from certain efforts to gather evidence. These protections, or exclusions from the general rule of free access to evidence, are known as privileges.

Federal courts recognize several types of privileges. To encourage clients to communicate freely with their lawyers and to fully disclose any information that may enable their lawyers to provide appropriate legal advice, courts allow clients to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications made when seeking legal services. This privilege applies to clients' communications with their attorneys and with the attorneys' office staff. It protects only confidential communications, not communications made to friends or acquaintances in addition to an attorney.

The Attorney-Client Privilege applies to the client, not the attorney. Thus, the client, but not the attorney, has the right to waive the privilege and to testify regarding protected communications. The privilege does not terminate even when the attorney-client relationship does. The privilege does not apply to a client's allegations of a breach of duty by the attorney.

To promote open communication within marital relationships, the rules of evidence also recognize a marital privilege. In criminal cases, a person has the privilege to refuse to testify against a spouse. This privilege covers only evidentiary matters that would incriminate the non-testifying spouse (i.e., the defendant), as other matters are not likely to jeopardize the marriage relationship. The non-testifying spouse does not have the right to assert the privilege; the privilege belongs only to the testifying spouse.

In criminal and civil cases, testimony about any confidential communications between spouses is also afforded a privilege. Either spouse, not just the testifying spouse, may assert this privilege. Unlike the testifying-spouse privilege, the confidential-marital-communications privilege survives the termination of the marriage by death or Divorce, but it does not apply to permanently separated spouses.

Courts also recognize a political-vote privilege, a clergy-penitent privilege, and qualified privileges for trade secrets, state secrets, and the identity of an informant. Some courts also recognize a physician-patient privilege, an accountant-client privilege, and a privilege granted to journalists seeking to protect their news sources.

Past Bad Acts

Generally, evidence of past bad acts by a criminal defendant is not admissible to prove that the defendant is a bad person and therefore committed the crime charged. However, evidence of past bad acts will be admitted for other purposes such as to show motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of a mistake or accident. Such evidence is also admissible for Impeachment purposes, (for example, if a defendant takes the stand) and when a defendant seeks to introduce the evidence in his or her defense.

In Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 120 S.Ct. 1851, 146 L.Ed.2d 826 (U.S.Cal., May 22, 2000) (NO. 98-9828), the defendant Ohler was tried for importation of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. After the trial court granted the government's motion to admit evidence of her previous conviction for methamphetamine possession, as impeachment evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1), Ohler decided to bring out her prior conviction under direct examination, in order to "remove the sting" from the prosecutor's possible elicitation of the conviction on cross-examination. (Under the trial court's ruling, the prior conviction was only admissible in the event that Ohler testified.) The jury convicted Ohler on both counts, and she appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in admitting her prior conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court affirmed her conviction, holding that Ohler had waived her objection to the evidence by introducing it herself.

Further readings

Gillmor, Barron, and Terry Simon. 1990. Mass Communication Law Cases and Comment. 5th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

Leonard, David P. 1995. "Foreword: Twenty Years of the Federal Rules of Evidence." Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 28 (June).

Mauet, Thomas A. 1988. Fundamentals of Trial Techniques. 2d ed. Boston: Little, Brown.

McCormick on Evidence. 1984 and Supp. 1987. 3d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.


Attorney-Client Privilege; Best Evidence; Character Evidence; Circumstantial Evidence; Cumulative Evidence; Derivative Evidence; Direct Evidence; DNA Evidence; Documentary Evidence; Exclusionary Rule; Extrinsic Evidence; Forensic Science; Parol Evidence; Privileged Communication; Polygraph.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. every type of proof legally presented at trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case. It can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs, and depositions (testimony under oath taken before trial). It also includes so-called "circumstantial evidence" which is intended to create belief by showing surrounding circumstances which logically lead to a conclusion of fact. Comments and arguments by the attorneys, statements by the judge, and answers to questions which the judge has ruled objectionable are not evidence. Charts, maps and models which are used to demonstrate or explain matters are not evidence themselves, but testimony based upon such items and marks on such material may be evidence. Evidence must survive objections of opposing attorneys that it is irrelevant, immaterial, violates rules against "hearsay" (statements by a party not in court), and/or other technicalities. (See: circumstantial evidence, hearsay, demonstrative evidence, object, relevancy, deposition)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


the body of rules that governs what can and what cannot be brought before a court in any particular cause. It determines whether and which witnesses may offer testimony and the extent to which they may testify. It is the law of evidence that regulates which writings, printouts, documents or, indeed, other items of real evidence, such as knives, dogs, cars, ships, photographs or videotapes, may be put before the court. It also determines what weight the evidence should have - whether it is conclusive, persuasive, indicative or useless. Indeed, it maybe said that the known PRESUMPTIONS in law that may resolve a case without any real evidence or testimony are equally part of the law of evidence. See CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, EXCLUSIONARY RULE.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

EVIDENCE. That which demonstrates, makes clear, or ascertains the truth of the very fact or point in issue; 3 Bl. Com. 367; or it is whatever is exhibited to a court or jury, whether it be by matter of record, or writing, or by the testimony of witnesses, in order to enable them to pronounce with certainty; concerning the truth of any matter in dispute; Bac. Ab. Evidence, in pr.; or it is that which is legally submitted to a jury, to enable them to decide upon the questions in dispute or issue, as pointed out by the pleadings and distinguished from all comment or argument. 1 Stark. Ev. 8.
    2. Evidence may be considered with reference to, 1. The nature of the evidence. 2. The object of the evidence. 3. The instruments of evidence. 4. The effect of evidence. 1. As to its nature, evidence may be considered with reference to its being 1. Primary evidence. 2. Secondary evidence. 3. Positive. 4. Presumptive. 5. Hearsay. 6. Admissions.
     4.-1. Primary evidence. The law generally requires that the best evidence the case admits of should be given; B. N. P. 293; 1 Stark. Ev. 102, 390; for example, when a written contract has been entered into, and the object is to prove what it was, it is requisite to produce the original writing if it is to be attained, and in that case no copy or other inferior evidence will be received.
     5. To this general rule there are several exceptions. 1. As it refers to the quality rather than to the quantity of evidence, it is evident that the fullest proof that every case admits of, is not requisite; if, therefore, there are several eye-witnesses to a fact, it may be sufficiently proved by one only.
     2. It is not always requisite, when the matter to be proved has been reduced to writing, that the writing should be produced; as, if the narrative of a fact to be proved has been committed to writing, it may yet be proved by parol evidence. A receipt for the payment of money, for example, will not exclude parol evidence of payment. 14 Esp. R. 213; and see 7 B. & C. 611; S. C. 14 E. C. L. R. 101; 1 Campb. R. 439; 3 B. & A. 566; 6 E. C. L. R. 377.
     6.-2. Secondary evidence. That species of proof which is admissible on the loss of primary evidence, and which becomes by that event the best evidence. 3 Yeates, Rep. 530.
     7. It is a rule that the best evidence, or that proof which most certainly exhibits the true state of facts to which it relates, shall be required, and the law rejects secondary or inferior evidence, when it is attempted to be substituted for evidence of a higher or superior nature. This is a rule of policy, grounded upon a reasonable suspicion, that the substitution of inferior for better evidence arises from sinister motives; and an apprehension that the best evidence, if produced, would alter the case to the prejudice of the party. This rule relates not to the measure and quantity of evidence, but to its quality when compared with some other evidence of superior degree. It is not necessary in point of law, to give the fullest proof that every case may admit of. If, for example, there be several eye witnesses to a fact, it may be proved by the testimony of one only.
     8. When primary evidence cannot be had, then secondary evidence will be admitted, because then it is the best. But before such evidence can be allowed, it must be clearly made to appear that the superior evidence is not to be had. The person who possesses it must be applied to, whether he be a stranger or the opposite party; in the case of a stranger, a subpoena and attachment, when proper, must be taken out and served; and, in the case of a party, notice to produce such primary evidence must be proved before the secondary evidence will be admitted. 7 Serg. & Rawle, 116; 6 Binn. 228; 4 Binn. R. 295, note; 6 Binn. R. 478; 7 East, R. 66; 8 East, R. 278 3 B. & A. 296; S. C. 5 E. C. L. R. 291.
     9. After proof of the due execution of the original, the contents should be proved by a counterpart, if there be one, for this is the next best evidence; and it seems that no evidence of a mere copy is admissible until proof has been given that the counterpart cannot be produced. 6 T. R. 236. If there be no counterpart, a copy may be proved in evidence. by any witness who knows that it is a copy, from having compared it with the original. Bull. N. P. 254; 1 Keb. 117; 6 Binn. R. 234; 2 Taunt. R. 52; 1 Campb. R. 469 8 Mass. R. 273. If there be no copy, the party may produce an abstract, or even give parol evidence of the contents of a deed. 10 Mod. 8; 6 T. R. 556.
    10. But it has been decided that there are no degrees in secondary evidence: and when a party has laid the foundation for such evidence, he may prove the contents of a deed by parol, although it appear that an attested copy is in existence. 6 C. & P. 206; 8 Id. 389.
    11.-3. Positive or direct evidence is that which, if believed, establishes the truth of a fact in issue, and does not arise from any presumption. Evidence is direct and positive, when the very facts in dispute are communicated by those who have the actual knowledge of them by means of their senses. 1 Phil. Ev. 116 1 Stark. 19. In one sense, there is but little direct or positive proof, or such proof as is acquired by means of one's own sense, all other evidence is presumptive but, in common acceptation, direct and positive evidence is that which is communicated by one who has actual knowledge of the fact.
    12.-4. Presumptive evidence is that which is not direct, but where, on the contrary, a fact which is not positively known, is presumed or inferred from one or more other facts or circumstances which are known. Vide article Presumption, and Rosc. Civ. Ev. 13; 1 Stark. Ev. 18.
    13.-5. Hearsay, is the evidence of those who relate, not what they know themselves, but what they have heard from others.
    14. Such mere recitals or assertions cannot be received in evidence, for many reasons, but principally for the following: first, that the party making such declarations is not on oath and, secondly, because the party against whom it operates, has no opportunity of cross-examination. 1 Phil. Ev. 185. See, for other reasons, 1 Stark. Ev. pt. 1, p. 44. The general rule excluding hearsay evidence, does not apply to those declarations to which the party is privy, or to admissions which he himself has made. See Admissions.
    15. Many facts, from their very nature, either absolutely, or usually exclude direct evidence to prove them, being such as are either necessarily or usually, imperceptible by the senses, and therefore incapable of the ordinary means of proof. These are questions of pedigree or relationship, character, prescription, custom, boundary, and the like; as also questions which depend upon the exercise of particular skill and judgment. Such facts, some from their nature, and others from their antiquity, do not admit of the ordinary and direct means of proof by living witnesses; and, consequently, resort must be had to the best means of proof which the nature of the cases afford. See Boundary; Custom; Opinion; Pedigree; Prescription.
    16.-6. Admissions are the declarations which a party by himself, or those who act under his authority, make of the existence of certain facts. Vide Admissions.
    17.- 2. The object of evidence is next to be considered. It is to ascertain the truth between the parties. It has been discovered by experience that this is done most certainly by the adoption of the following rules, which are now binding as law: 1. The evidence must be confined to the point in issue. 2. The substance of the issue must be proved, but only the substance is required to be proved. 3. The affirmative of the issue must be proved.
    18.-1. It is a general rule, both in civil and criminal cases, that the evidence shall be confined to the point in issue. Justice and convenience require the observance of this rule, particularly in criminal cases, for when a prisoner is charged with an offence, it is of the utmost importance to him that the facts laid before the jury should consist exclusively of the transaction, which forms the subject of the indictment, and, which alone he has come prepared to answer. 2 Russ. on Cr. 694; 1 Phil. Ev. 166.
    19. To this general rule, there are several exceptions, and a variety of cases which do not fall within the rule. 1. In general, evidence of collateral facts is not admissible; but when such a fact is material to the issue joined between the parties, it may be given in evidence; as, for example, in order to prove that the acceptor of a bill knew the payee to be a fictitious person; or that the drawer had general authority from him to fill up bills with the name of a fictitious payee, evidence may be given to show that he had accepted similar bills before they could, from their date, have arrived from the place of date. 2 H. Bl. 288.
    20.-2. When special damage sustained by the plaintiff is not stated in the declaration, it is Dot one of the points in issue, and therefore, evidence of it cannot be received; yet a damage which is the necessary result of the defendant's breach of contract, may be proved, notwithstanding it is not in the declaration. 11 Price's Reports, 19.
    21.-3. In general, evidence of the character of either party to a suit is inadmissible, yet in some cases such evidence may be given. Vide article Character.
    22.-4. When evidence incidentally applies to another person or thing not included in the transaction in question, and with regard to whom or to which it is inadmissible; yet if it bear upon the point in issue, it will be received. 8 Bingh. Rep. 376; S. C. 21 Eng. C. L. R. 325 and see 1 Phil. Ev. 158; 2 East, P. C. 1035; 2 Leach, 985; S. C. 1 New Rep. 92; Russ. & Ry. C. C. 376; 2 Yeates, 114; 9 Conn. Rep. 47.
    23.-5. The acts of others, as in the case of conspirators, may be given in evidence against the prisoner, when referable to the issue; but confessions made by one of several conspirators after the offence has been completed, and when the conspirators no longer act in concert) cannot be received. Vide article Confession, and 10 Pick. 497; 2 Pet. Rep. 364; 2 Brec. R. 269; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 9; 1 Rawle, 362, 458; 2 Leigh's R. 745; 2 Day's Cas. 205; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 220; 3 Pick. 33; 4 Cranch, 75; 2 B. & A. 573-4 S. C. 5. E. C. L. R. 381.
    24.-6. In criminal cases, when the offence is a cumulative one, consisting itself in the commission of a number of acts, evidence of those acts is not only admissible, but essential to support the charge. On an indictment against a defendant for a conspiracy, to cause himself, to be believed a man of large property, for the purpose of defrauding tradesmen after proof of a representation to one tradesman, evidence may therefore be given of a representation to another tradesman at a different time. 1 Campb. Rep. 399; 2 Day's Cas. 205; 1 John. R. 99; 4 Rogers' Rec. 143; 2 Johns. Cas. 193.
    25.-7. To prove the guilty knowledge of a prisoner, with regard to the transaction in question, evidence of other offences of the same kind, committed by the prisoner, though not charged in the indictment, is admissible against him. As in the case where a prisoner had passed a counterfeit dollar, evidence that he had. other counterfeit dollars in his possession is evidence to prove the guilty knowledge. 2 Const. R. 758; Id. 776; 1 Bailey, R. 300; 2 Leigh's R. 745; 1 Wheeler's Cr. Cas. 415; 3 Rogers' Rec. 148; Russ. & Ry. 132; 1 Campb. Rep. 324; 5 Randolph's R. 701.
    26.-2. The substance of the issue joined between the parties must be proved. 1 Phil. Ev. 190. Under this rule will be considered the quantity of evidence required to support particular averments in the declaration or indictment.
    27. And, first, of civil cases. 1. It is a fatal variance in a contract, if it appear that a party who ought to have been joined as plaintiff has been omitted. 1 Saund. 291 b, n.; 2 T. R. 282. But it is no variance to omit a person who might have been joined as defendant, because the non-joinder ought to have been pleaded in abatement. 1 Saund. 291 d, n. 2. The consideration of the contract must be proved but it is not necessary for the plaintiff to set out in his declaration, or prove on the trial, the several parts of a contract consisting of distinct and collateral provisions; it is sufficient to state so much of the contract as contains the entire consideration of the act, and the entire act to be done in virtue of such consideration, including the time, manner, and other circumstances of its performance. 6 East, R. 568; 4 B. & A. 387; 6 E. C. L. R. 455.
    28.-Secondly. In criminal cases, it may be laid down, 1. That it is, in general, sufficient to prove what constitutes an offence. It is enough to prove so much of the indictment as shows that the defendant has committed a substantive crime therein specified. 2 Campb. R. 585; 1 Harr. & John. 427. If a man be indicted for robbery, he may be found guilty of larceny, and not guilty of the robbery. 2 Hale, P. C. 302. The offence of which the party is convicted, must, however, be of the same class with that of which he is charged. 1 i Leach, 14; 2 Stra. 1133.
    29.-2. When the intent of the prisoner furnishes one of the ingredients in the offence, and several intents are laid in the indictment, each of which, together with the act done, constitutes an offence, it is sufficient to prove one intent only. 3 Stark. R. 35; 14 E. C. L. R. 154, 163.
    30.-3. When a person or thing, necessary to be mentioned in an indictment, is described with circumstances of greater particularity than is requisite, yet those circumstances must be proved. 3 Rogers' Rec. 77; 3 Day's Cas. 283. For example, if a party be charged with stealing a black horse, the evidence must correspond with the averment, although it was unnecessary to make it. Roscoe's Cr. Ev. 77 4 Ohio, 350.
    31.-4. The name of the prosecutor, or party injured; must be proved as laid, and the rule is the same with reference to the name of a third person introduced into the indictment, as. descriptive of some person or thing.
    32.-5. The affirmative of the issue must be proved. The general rule with regard to the burthen of proving the issue, requires that the party who asserts the, affirmative should prove it. But this rule ceases to operate the moment the presumption of law is thrown into the other scale. When the issue is on the legitimacy of a child therefore, it is incumbent on the party asserting the illegitimacy to prove it. 2 Selw. N. P. 709. Vide Onus Probandi; Presum 2 Gall. R. 485 and 1 McCord, 573.
    33.-3. The consideration of the instruments of evidence will be the subject of this head. These consist of records, private writings, or witnesses.
    34.-1. Records are to be proved by an exemplification, duly authenticated, (Vide Authentication, in all cases where the issue is nul tiel record. In other cases, an examined copy, duly proved, will, in general, be evidence. Foreign laws as proved in the mode pointed out under the article Foreign laws.
    35.-2. Private writings are proved by producing the attesting witness; or in case of his death, absence, or other legal inability to testify, as if, after attesting the paper, he becomes infamous, his handwriting may be proved. When there is no witness to the instrument, it may be proved by the evidence of the handwriting of the party, by a person who has seen him write, or in a course of correspondence has become acquainted with his hand. See Comparison of handwriting, and 5 Binn. R. 349; 10 Serg. & Rawle, 110; 11 Serg. & Rawle, 333 3 W. C. C. R. 31; 11 Serg. & Rawle, 347 6 Serg. & Rawle, 12, 812; 1 Rawle, R. 223; 3 Rawle, R. 312; 1 Ashm. R. 8; 3 Penn. R. 136.
    36. Books of original entry, when duly proved, are prima facie evidence of goods sold and delivered, and of work and labor done. Vide original entry.
    37.-3. Proof by witnesses. The testimony of witnesses is called parol evidence, or that which is given viva voce, as contra-distinguished from that which is written or documentary. It is a general rule, that oral evidence shall in no case be received as equivalent to, or as a substitute for, a written instrument, where the latter is required by law; or to give effect to a written instrument which is defective in any particular which by law is essential to its validity; or to contradict, alter or vary a written instrument, either appointed by law, or by the contract of the parties, to be the appropriate and authentic memorial of the particular facts it recites; for by doing so, oral testimony would be admitted to usurp the place of evidence decidedly superior in degree. 1 Serg. & Rawle, 464; Id. 27; Addis. R. 361; 2 Dall. 172; 1 Yeates, 140; 1 Binn. 616; 3 Marsh. Ken. R. 333; 4 Bibb, R. 473; 1 Bibb, R. 271; 11 Mass. R. 30; 13 Mass. R. 443; 3 Conn. 9; 20 Johns. 49; 12 Johns. R. 77; 3 Camp. 57; 1 Esp. C. 53; 1 M. & S. 21; Bunb. 175.
    38. But parol evidence is admissible to defeat a written instrument, on the ground of fraud, mistake, &c., or to apply it to its proper subject matter; or, in some instances, as ancillary to such application, to explain the meaning of doubtful terms, or to rebut presumptions arising extrinsically. In these cases, the parol evidence does not usurp the place, or arrogate the authority of, written evidence, but either shows that the instrument ought not to be allowed to operate at all, or is essential in order to give to the instrument its legal effect. 1 Murph. R. 426 4 Desaus. R. 211; 1 Desaus. R. 345 1 Bay, R. 247; 1 Bibb, R. 271 11 Mass. R. 30; see 1 Pet. C. C. R. 85 1 Binn. R. 610; 3 Binn. R. 587: 3 Serg. Rawle, 340; Poth. Obl. Pl. 4, c. 2.
    39.-4. The effect of evidence. Under this head will be considered, 1st. The effect of judgments rendered in the United States, and of records lawfully made in this country; and, 2d. The effect of foreign judgments and laws.
    40.-1. As a general rule, a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction, directly upon the point in issue, is a bar between the same parties: 1 Phil. Ev. 242; and privies in blood, as an heir 3 Mod. 141; or privies in estate 1 Ld. Raym. 730; B. N. P. 232; stand in the same situation. as those they represent; the verdict and judgment may be used for or against them, and is conclusive. Vide Res Judicata.
    41. The Constitution of the United States, art. 4, s. 1, declares, that "Full faith and credit shall be given, in each state, to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And congress may, by general laws, prescribe the manner in which Such acts, records and proceedings, shall be proved, and the effect thereof." Vide article Authentication and 7 Cranch, 481; 3 Wheat. R. 234 10 Wheat. R. 469; 17 Mass. R. 546; 9 Cranch, 192; 2 Yeates, 532; 7 Cranch, 408; 3 Bibb's R. 369; 5 Day's R. 563; 2 Marsh. Kty. R. 293.
    42.-2. As to the effect of foreign laws, see article Foreign Laws. For the force and effect of foreign judgments, see article Foreign Judgments. Vide, generally, the Treatises on Evidence, of Gilbert, Phillips, Starkie, Roscoe, Swift, Bentham, Macnally, Peake, Greenleaf, and Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.; the various Digests, h.t.

EVIDENCE, CIRCUMSTANTIAL. The proof of facts which usually attend other facts sought to be, proved; that which is not direct evidence. For example, when a witness testifies that a man was stabbed with a knife, and that a piece of the blade was found in the wound, and it is found to fit exactly with another part of the blade found in the possession of the prisoner; the facts are directly attested, but they only prove circumstances, and hence this is called circumstantial evidence.
     2. Circumstantial evidence is of two kinds, namely, certain and uncertain. It is certain when the conclusion in question necessarily follows as, where a man had received a mortal wound, and it was found that the impression of a bloody left hand had been made on the left arm of the deceased, it was certain some other person than the deceased must have made such mark. 14 How. St. Tr. 1324. But it is uncertain whether the death was caused by suicide or by murder, and whether the mark of the bloody hand was made by the assassin, or by a friendly hand that came too late to the relief of the deceased. Id. Vide Circumstances.

EVIDENCE, CONCLUSIVE. That which, while uncontradicted, satisfies the judge and jury it is also that which cannot be contradicted.
     2. The record of a court of common law jurisdiction is conclusive as to the facts therein stated. 2 Wash. 64; 2 H. 55; 6 Conn. 508, But the judgment and record of a prize court is not conclusive evidence in the state courts, unless it had jurisdiction of the subject-matter; and whether it had or not, the state courts may decide. 1 Conn. 429. See as to the conclusiveness of the judgments of foreign courts of admiralty, 4 Cranch, 421, 434; 3 Cranch, 458; Gilmer, 16 Const. R. 381 1 N. & M. 5 3 7.

EVIDENCE, DIRECT. That which applies immediately to the fadum probandum, without any intervening process; as, if A testifies he saw B inflict a mortal wound on C, of which he, instantly died. 1 Greenl. Ev. Sec. 13.

EVIDENCE, EXTRINSIC. External evidence, or that which is not contained in the body of an agreement, contract, and the like.
     2. It is a general rule that extrinsic evidence cannot be admitted to contradict, explain, vary or change the terms of a contract or of a will, except in a latent ambiguity, or to rebut a resulting trust. 14 John. 1; 1 Day, R. 8; 6 Conn. 270.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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