Jurors Discover the Exhibit

An irrefutable principle is that a trial lawyer must carefully examine every exhibit that may go to the jury room. Adhere to this rule or live to regret it.

One cautionary tale I use to drive home this point involves the trial of a criminal sexual conduct, first degree burglary and kidnapping case involving a 72-year-old woman victim. An Orangeburg, South Carolina trial judge granted a mistrial, “ruling that the jury was prejudiced by evidence not submitted at trial. Jurors found a confession in the back pocket of the pants (defendant) Bradley was wearing when police arrested him. The pants had been admitted into evidence, but the document had not.”

The written confession was not admitted into evidence at trial because the police had lost the original. Upon retrial, the crime lab confirmed that the defendant had written the confession, and it was admitted into evidence. (Associated Press, October 13, 2005).