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Criminal Law/admissibility of gruesome photographs at trail

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Question
What are the law(s) on the admissibility of gruesome photographs of the bodies of murder victims at the murder trial? Do you believe attorneys should be allowed to display gruesome photographs or 3-D reconstruction to the jury in any type of trail?

Answer
Rudy,

The Federal Rules of Evidence (and similar State rules) control this issue under FRE Section 403.  According to 403, relevant evidence is inadmissible if it is found to be unfairly prejudicial (emphasis added):  "Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence."

If the opposing side objects to the photographs they may be stricken by the judge from being used and/or displayed as an evidence exhibit.  The most recent use of this objection that I can think of was during the Casey Anthony Trial where the defense attempted to use a large photograph of an approximately 12 year old Casey to find more sympathy with the jury.  The judge ruled against its use.      

My opinion is that if the exhibit is necessary, then the use should be permitted.  If the exhibit runs afoul of FRE Section 403, then no, it should be excluded.

Jeff

Jeffrey Peter Hauck, JD, CPO, CII, LPD
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Jeffrey Hauck

Expertise

I would welcome the opportunity to answer questions relating to or related to the field of criminal law.

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Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

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Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree.

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