All About Evidence
All About Evidence
Paul Bergman (Professor, UCLA School of Law) gives expert video advice on: What are the basic rules of evidence?; What are courtroom 'exhibits'?; What is 'physical evidence'? and more...
What are the basic rules of evidence?
Evidence has to be supplied by people with witnesses who have personal knowledge. You can't come into court and describe what other people have told you. You can't say what you assumed happened, or what you think happened. You have to testify to what you yourself actually heard, saw, or smelt. Generally, character evidence is not admissible. We have a saying in the United States that we judge the act, but not the actor. The testimony should relate to what the people did that relates to the subject matter of the lawsuit, and not that three years earlier they were beating their spouse, for example. It's not supposed to be based on information as to what people have done in the past. Those are three of the most basic rules of evidence.
What are courtroom 'exhibits'?
Exhibits are simply tangible objects that people offer into the evidence, and when they're offered into evidence they become exhibits. They usually may be given a number or a letter, then to keep the record of the trial clear, the parties should refer to the document or the tangible object by the exhibit number or letter. In other words, if they hand a letter to a witness, and the letter has already been admitted into evidence, they should refer to it as "Exhibit A," not "Here, take a look at this letter," because someone reading the record of the trial might not know what letter they're referring to. On the other hand, if it's Exhibit A, someone who knows what the exhibits are would know exactly what they're referring to.
What is 'physical evidence'?
Physical evidence is, its probably another term for an exhibit. It typically means an object that was actually involved in the subject matter of the trial. For example, the murder weapon in a murder trial would be physical evidence. Once it's offered into evidence, it would be an exhibit. But physical evidence generally means that this object, whether its a letter, a gun, an e-mail message that's been printed out, that that is something that was actually involved in a lawsuit as opposed to evidence of what happened.
What is 'rebuttal evidence'?
The trial goes according to an order. The party - that's either the plaintiff or the prosecution - starts the case. They present their evidence. The defence then has a chance to respond to that evidence. Rebuttal evidence is when the party that started the case in the first place gets a chance to go again and responds to evidence that the defendant brought up during the defendant's case.