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Criminal-Procedure-Chevigny-Sp06 - Criminal Law Chevigny...

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Criminal Law – Chevigny Spring 2006 NYU Law School Basics of the Criminal Justice System I. A System of Discretion A. A basic element of our system is discretion at many levels of law enforcement 1) Police in whom to charge 2) Prosecutors in whom to prosecute, what to charge them with, and when to offer a plea bargain B. Dangers of discretion 1) Unequal treatment 2) Use of political influence to get charges dropped 3) If a perception of unequal application, could lead to less adherence to the law 4) Potential for corruption II. Evidence A. Relevance requirement 1) In order to be relevant, evidence must be both probative and material . (a) Evidence is material only if the proposition it is offered to prove is one that will affect the outcome of the case under the applicable law. (b) Evidence is probative only if the material proposition is more likely to be true with the evidence than it would be without it. B. Prejudicial evidence 1) Definition (a) Evidence that will affect the result in an improper way. 2) Evidence of bad character (a) The prosecution cannot present evidence that goes only to prove a defendant has a “criminal disposition” because its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value. (b) People v. Zachowitz (N.Y. 1930) CB 22 – Murder conviction reversed because trial court should not have allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence that defendant had a collection of guns at home when trying to prove premeditation (the only issue in the case). (i) “Character is never an issue in a criminal prosecution unless the defendant chooses to make it one.” (ii) Cardozo distinguishes three hypothetical situations in which the evidence would have been admissible Pistols were bought in expectation of this incident – evidence of preparation and design Identity of killer in dispute, and the pistols tended to implicate D 1. The evidence would still be somewhat prejudicial, but the probative value would outweigh it. D actually carried the guns to the encounter 1. The fact of arming himself would be probative of preconceived design in a way that just owning the guns isn’t. (iii) Dissent argues that the gun evidence was relevant not because it showed a violent character, but because it showed he had the opportunity to arm himself, and he did. 3) Evidence of other crimes (a) From Zachowitz dissent and F.R.E. 404: Evidence of crimes by defendant not alleged in the indictment are inadmissible unless they tend to prove: (i) Motive (example: If D is on trial for murdering V, evidence that V witnessed D commit a robbery is admissible) (ii) Opportunity (iii) Intent (iv) Absence of mistake or accident (v) Preparation or plan (vi) Identity of the perpetrator (b) Even when evidence of other crimes falls within an exception (meaning it is offered not just to show character) its probative value still must outweigh its prejudicial effect.
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