Judge Lynn M. EganJudge Deborah MaryDoolingJudge John P. KirbySeptember 28, 2016
START WITH THE RULES
Relevance is the key to admissibility; and relevance cannot be established without proper identification or authentication.IllinoisRule 901:Identification/authenticationis a“condition precedent to admissibility.”Ill. R.Evid901 (eff. Jan. 1, 2011)
BUT DON’T FORGET…
Even if properly identified/authenticated, evidence may still be excluded if:Its probative value is substantially outweighed by factors such as prejudice, confusion or potential to mislead the jury. (Prejudice means “’an undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis…such as sympathy, hatred, contempt or horror.”)It was obtained through abuse of discovery procedures. (Sup.Ct.Rule219(d)).
PROTECT YOUR RECORD
Ill. R.Evid103(a)(2) expressly provides that no claim of error can be based on the exclusion of evidence unless the proponent of the evidence made anoffer of proof.An offer of proof must advise the trial court of:The nature of the proposed evidence/testimony;From whom it will be elicited & its purpose.Can forego offer of proof if:Trial court attitude prevents it; orIt is apparent the trial court understood the evidence, & its purpose/materiality.
Very important & useful – “strong presumption” that jurors follow court instructions.People v. Nixon, 2016 IL App (2d) 130514.Supreme Court Rule 105 requires a trial judge to give such an instruction “upon request” when evidence admitted for a limited purpose.Don’t miss this opportunityas judge not required to givesuasponte.Consider their use IN ADVANCE OF TRIAL and be prepared with specific language so instruction is given at the appropriate time.
FOUNDATION: EVIDENCE SPECIFIC
While preparing for trial, consider each & every piece of evidence and how you will get it admitted in the event of an objection.Do not simply assume your opponent will not object or that your trial judge will relax the rules.When confronted with an objection, START WITH THE RULES!!NEVER respond by saying, “But Judge, this is crucial to my case.”
Every person is presumed competent to testify, except as otherwise noted in the rules/statutes. (Ill.R.Evid601).The burden of proving lack of competence is on the party challenging the witness.Foundational inquiry focuses on 4 factors:Witness’ ability to receive correct impressions from his senses;Witness’ ability to recall those impressions;Witness’ ability to understand & answer questions;Witness’ ability to appreciate moral duty to tell the truth.
Two types of facts appropriate for judicial notice:Adjudicative factsandLegislative factsAdjudicative facts governed by Ill. R.Evid201:Court shall take judicial notice upon request if given necessary informationParties entitled to chance to be heardJudicial notice may be taken at any stage of proceedingJury shall be informed of judicially noticed fact in CIVIL case.Foundational RequirementsNotice to opposing partyProvide trial judge with necessary information
WITNESS HONESTY: CHARACTER & REPUTATION EVIDENCE
Character evidence = “the nature of a person, his disposition generally, or his disposition in respect to a particular trait such as honesty, peacefulness, or truthfulness.”Reputation evidence = “the community estimation of him.”Governed by Ill. R.Evid404, 405 & 608.
ILL. R. EVID 405
Methods Of Proving CharacterReputation or Opinion.In all cases in which evidence of character or a trait of character of a person is admissible, proof may be made by testimony as to reputation, or by testimony in the form of an opinion.Specific Instances of Conduct.In cases in which character or a trait of character of a person is an essential element of a charge, claim, or defense, proof may also be made of specific instances of that person’s conduct;In criminal homicide or battery cases when the accused raises the theory of self-defense & there is conflicting evidence as to whether the alleged victim was the aggressor, proof may also be made of specific instances of the alleged victim’s prior violent conduct.
Words matters – understand the differences between these evidentiary concepts and BE PRECISE in describing the proposed testimony.They are used in different circumstances and are governed by different rules and foundational requirements.Custom & practice most commonly used in contractual or commercial disputes.Habit & routine practice are seen in a wide variety of cases & are expressly governed by Ill. R.Evid406.
CUSTOM & PRACTICE
Foundational Requirements:Proof that the conduct is so well known, uniform, long established & generally acquiesced in as to induce a belief that the parties contracted with reference to it.Capital Development Board v. G.A.Rafel& Co., Inc., 143 Ill.App.3d 553, 559 (2d Dist., 1986).NOTE:A single instance or a few isolated instances are insufficient to establish custom.PickusConstruction v. American Overhead Door, 326 Ill.App.3d 518, 524 (2d Dist., 2001).
HABIT & ROUTINE PRACTICE
The foundation is essentially the same for both habit and routine practice: evidence that there is a regular, semi-automatic response to a repeated, specific situation so that the act becomes invariably regular.Unvarying regularity is the key in both instances.Ill. R.Evid406 applies to both types of evidence, without regard to the presence of eyewitnesses or corroborating evidence.The difference between the two concepts? Habit applies to the conduct of an individual, while routine practice applies to the conduct of an organization.
Merely serves as a visual aid to the jury in understanding other evidence.No probative or substantive value itself.Foundational ConsiderationsRelevance & fairness: andWitness testifies that the exhibit accurately represents what it purports to show & that it will assist him in explaining his testimony to the jury.
Permitted so long as the proponent demonstrates sufficient similarity between the simulation and the facts in evidence.Trial court is not required or expected to simply accept an expert’s claim that there is sufficient similarity; the judge must independently analyze it.It is inappropriate to use solely as a means to precondition the jury to accept a party’s theory.Don’t forget limiting instructions in this context!
COMPUTER-GENERATED & COMPUTER-STORED EVIDENCE
Ill. R.Evid901(c)(9) & 803 apply.Computer-generatedevidence = records directly generated by a computer as the result of the computer’s internal operations. (Cell phone records, GPS receiver records, black box data).Foundation: proof recording device was accurate & properly operating when evidence was created.Computer-storedevidence = data placed in the computer by out-of-court declarants.Foundation: equipment is standard, data entered in regular course of business close in time to event recorded, source of the data, method & time of preparation indicates its trustworthiness.NOTE:Needoriginals.
Ill. R.Evid901(c)(1), 1001(2) & “Silent Witness” Rule apply.“Photographs” = still photos, x-ray films, video tapes, motion pictures & other products which produce recorded messages.Videotapes are admissible on the same basis as still photographs.“Day-in-the-Life” videos may be shown duringvoirdirein order to more accurately assess whether jurors can remain fair & impartial after seeing graphic depictions of injury.
Testimony of any person with personal knowledge of the object depicted that photo or video is a fair & accurate representation of the object.Photographer/videographer need not testify.Probative value cannot be substantially outweighed by danger of unfair prejudice.BUT….gruesomeness alone is insufficient to exclude photos/video.
SILENT WITNESS RULE
Applied in cases involving automatic cameras or surveillance systems.People v. Taylor, 2011 IL 110067.Foundational requirements are case specific & list of relevant factors is “nonexclusive”:Device’s capability for recording & general reliability;Competency of the operator;Proper operation of the device;Manner in which recording was preserved (chain of custody);Identification of persons, locale, or objects depicted;Explanation of any copying or duplication process.
Ill. R.Evid901(c)(9) – process or system – applies.Foundational requirements include:Testimony from someone who can explain a business’ procedures for compiling information & methods for checking for mechanical/human error;Testimony explaining operation of the machine & that it functioned properly;Testimony about the mechanical reliability of the machine.People v. Hagan, 145 Ill.2d 287 (1991)
EMAIL & TEXT MESSAGES
Treated like any other form of documentary evidence.People v.Downin, 357 Ill.App.3d 193 (2005).This means the requirements for authenticating more traditional writings apply.Id.Ill. R.Evid901(b)(4) – distinctive characteristics – applies.Foundation requires a rational basis upon which to conclude that the document belonged to or was authored by the party alleged.Both direct & circumstantial evidence may be used to authenticate. (This means actual contents of message can be considered.)
EMAIL & TEXT MESSAGES
NOTE:Authenticating evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the proponent of the evidence.People v. Watkins, 2015 IL App (3d) 120882.CAUTION:Authentication of email or text messages (or any other document) is not satisfied merely because a party produced it during the course of discovery.Complete Conference Coordinators, Inc. v. Kumon North America, Inc., 394 Ill.App.3d 105 (2d Dist., 2009).
Evidence of occurrences in unrelated cases may be admissible for the following purposes:To show the existence of a particular danger or hazard; orTo show the defendant’s knowledge of the generally hazardous nature of the condition.There must be a sufficient degree of similarity between the unrelated cases & the matter being tried. Does not need to be identical.
Ill.S.Ct. Rule 236 & Ill. R.Evid803 & 902(11) apply.Foundation requires evidence of the following:That the record was made as a memorandum or record of the act;That the record was made in the regular course of business; andThat it was the regular course of the business to make such a record at the time or within a reasonable time thereafter.NOTE:Records made in anticipation of litigation do not qualify as business records..
Agreement between the parties that can cover facts, evidence, admissions or procedure.Can be oral or written, but better practice is to formalize in writing.Once made, the stipulation is conclusive as to all matters included in it.QUESTION:What about an admission of liability? Must the plaintiff accept it?