Monthly Archives: November 2015
I was listening to a new album by cousin Peter Neff that he created in collaboration with his co-composer Mauricio Yazigi titled Spanish Guitars. The sound and rhythm is mesmerizing. It reminded me that a good cross-examination or closing argument has its own rhythm and melody. The pace and delivery both lulls and controls the defenses of the witness As the examination draws him closer to the truth.
Want to understand this power? Read out loud classic dialogues such as Plato’s the Republic. The Republic is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice, the order and character of the just city-state and the just man. You will notice how the pace and melody of the words propels the examination and the rhetorical power of the questions posed.
Remember that cross examination is simply a means of speaking the truth to the jury through a series of well planned rhetorical questions that logically lead to your ultimate point. These examinations have a rhythm which you can use to your advantage to emphasize the themes of your case. See F. Lee Bailey’s cross examination of Detective Mark Furhman which helped undermine the State of California’s case by suggesting Furman was a dishonest racist who planted blood as evidence against O.J. Simpson.
Likewise a good closing has a rhythm and melody which melds with each point you must make to the jury. Check out the clip of “True Believer”, San Francisco attorney Tony Serra, as he gives a spellbinding closing argument for his client, Rick Tabish charged with murder.
Find your pace and use it to your advantage. The modulation of the pace, volume and pitch of your voice is no different than a musical instrument. It conveys the mood and emphasis of you point. Make sure there is both a rhyme and a reason supporting your next presentation.
So you’re at trial and your opponent wants to offer into evidence their expert’s written report… What do you do? Is it admissible? The short answer is no. Expert’s reports are documents prepared in anticipation of litigation and do not have the inherent reliability of documents typically considered and admissible under exceptions to the hearsay rule such as Indiana Rules of Evidence 803 and 804.RULE 803. Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(6) recognizes this danger. IRE 803(6) states:
Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity. A record of an act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis if:
(A) the record was made at or near the time by — or from information transmitted by — someone with knowledge;
(B) the record was kept in the course of a regularly conducted activity of a business, organization, occupation, or calling, whether or not for profit;
(C) making the record was a regular practice of that activity;
(D) all these conditions are shown by the testimony of the custodian or another qualified witness, or by a certification that complies with Rule 902(9) or (10) or with a statute permitting certification; and
(E) neither the source of information nor the method or circumstances of preparation indicate a lack of trustworthiness.
(Emphasis Added). Clearly, a report by a hired gun hardly provides circumstances indicative trustworthiness. In Re: Termination of Parent-Chile Relationship of E.T. and B.T., 808 N.E.2d 639 (Ind. 2004), the Indiana Supreme Court observed:
[The] business records exception to the hearsay rule is “based on the fact that the circumstances of preparation assure the accuracy and reliability of the entries.” Wells, 261 N.E.2d at 870. As we have observed more recently, the reliability of business records stems in part from the fact that “the organization depends on them to operate, from the sense that they are subject to review, audit, or internal checks, [and] from the precision engendered by the repetition…” Stahl v. State, 484 N.E.2d 89, 92 (Ind. 1997); see also Advisory Committee’s Note to Fed. R. of Evid. 803(6) (observing that business records are made reliable by “systematic checking, by regularity and continuity which produce habits of precision, by actual experience of business in relying upon them, or by a duty to make an accurate record as part of a continuing job or occupation.”
Id. at 642-43. The Court went on to explain that if a business does not rely on certain records for the performance of its functions then those records do not fall into the hearsay exception for records of regularly conducted business activity. (See also Palmer v. Hoffman, 318 U.S. 109, 111 (1943), where the Court upheld the exclusion of a railroad engineer’s statement. “[I]t is manifest that in this case those reports are not for the systematic conduct of the enterprise as a railroad business. …[T]hese reports are calculated for use essentially in the court, not in the business. Their primary utility is in litigating not in railroading.“)
A retained expert’s report is not subject to review, audit, or internal checks for use in the expert’s business nor is it relied upon by the expert in the performance of business functions. In Re: Termination of Parent-Chile Relationship of E.T. and B.T., 808 N.E.2d 639 (Ind. 2004). Instead it designed and created for use in litigation. IRE 803(6) requires that the method or circumstances of the preparation not indicate a lack of trustworthiness.
A report is not trustworthy when the Defendant hires an individual to prepare it if the primary motive for preparing the report is for litigation. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Sinkovich, 232 F.3d 200, 205 (4th Cir. 2000). “Litigants cannot evade the trustworthy requirement of Rule 803(6) by simply hiring an outside party to investigate an accident and then arguing that the report is a business record because the investigator regularly prepares such reports as part of his business.” Id. See also, Echo Acceptance Corp. v. Household Retail Services, Inc., 267 F.3d 1068, 1090-91 (10th Cir. 2001); Lust v. Sealy, Inc., 383 F.3d 580, 588 (7th Cir. 2004).
These sentiments are echoed in Judge Robert Miller’s Courtroom Handbook on Indiana Evidence, in reference to Rule 803(6) he notes:
“Documents made in anticipation of litigation, including computer printouts are generally not admissible under Rule 803(6).” Certain Underwriters at Lloyds , London v. Sincovich, 232 F.3d 200, 205 (4th Cir. 2000); Bradley v. Phelps, 147 Ind. App. 349, 260 894, 898 (1970), cf. Baker v. Wagers, 472 N.E.2d 218, 222 (Ind. App. 1984).
So do not let your opponent get away with creating testimonial exhibits which will be taken back to the jury room and provide unfair emphasis on such testimony. Reports simply aren’t admissible.