In a criminal trial with conflicting evidence, it is the role of the jury to resolve the evidentiary conflicts and arrive at a conclusion as to guilt or acquittal. On appeal, appellate courts do not consider whether they agree or disagree with the jury's resolution of conflicting facts and evidence. Appellate courts review to determine whether there was evidence from which the jury could reasonably have reached its conclusions of guilt (jury acquittals are not appealable in the United States). In the recent case of State v. Pantaleon, M2012-00575-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Criim.App. 4-25-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant's convictions for rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery.
Sufficiency of the evidence of a criminal conviction can be and often is reviewed on direct appeal of that conviction. However, the appellate court does not reevaluate what facts should have been believed or rejected by a jury. It is the function of the jury to make factual determinations from the evidence presented. An appellate court will consider the facts in a light most favorable to the jury verdict, and only review whether there were facts presented upon which the verdict could be based. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Kromah, M2011-01813-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 3-1-2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the facts presented at trial to determine whether the evidence was sufficient for the Defendant's conviction of sexual battery by an authority figure. The Court ultimately concluded that it was.
Evidence obtained from a warrantless search is generally not admissible against a defendant in a criminal case unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies. Among those exceptions are a search incident to arrest, a search performed with consent, exigent circumstances, a brief 'stop and frisk' supported by reasonable suspicion, and evidence in plain view. To lawfully obtain evidence in plain view, the police officer must view it from a place where the officer has a lawful right to be and the incriminating nature of the evidence must be immediately apparent. The conditions for plain view were met, according to the Court of Criminal Appeals, in the recent case of State v. McAllister, E2012-00493-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 2-7-2013).
In a criminal trial, testimonial evidence from witnesses is presented by the witness' live testimony at trial, subject to cross-examination by the opposing party. Generally, a prior (out of court) statement of a witness consistent with the witness testimony is not admissible to bolster the credibility of the testimony. There are exceptions to this rule though. If an opposing party challenges the testimony by suggesting it was recently fabricated, deliberately false, or inconsistent with a prior statement of the witness, then a prior (out of court) consistent statement may be introduced. This occurred in the recent case of State v. Beu, E2012-00176-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 12-20-2012).
The State has a duty to preserve evidence in its possession in a criminal case. When it fails to do so, consequences can range from simply a corrective jury instruction, to exclusion of some of the remaining evidence, or even dismissal of the criminal charges. In the recent case of State v. Merriman, M2011-01682-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App 2-17-2012), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a trial court's dismissal of a DUI case where the State lost the digital video recording of the pursuit and stop.
Tennessee law recognizes a clergy-penitent privilege, which protects the legal confidentiality (so that it cannot be used as evidence at trial) of some statements made to members of the clergy when seeking spiritual advice or counsel. However, this privilege does not apply when dealing with incidents of child sexual abuse. Nor does any other communication privilege, other than attorney-client privilege, protect the confidentiality of statements involving known or suspected child sexual abuse. This exception is statutory. It is also recently illustrated in the case of State v. Workman, E2010-02278-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 12-13-2011).
The Tennessee Rules of Evidence provide for limited circumstances under which a witness' credibility may be attacked or supported by opinion or reputation. Evidence of a witness' character for truthfulness or untruthfulness may be admissible. Before character for truthfulness is admissible though, the character of the witness for truthfulness must first have been attacked. Tennessee Rules of Evidence, Rule 608(a). In the recent case of State v. Thomas, M2010-01394-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-4-2011), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals explains that attacking the credibility of a statement a witness has made is not the same thing as attacking the witness' character for truthfulness.
It is common in DUI cases to review patrol car video of the initial stop to help determine whether that stop was legally justified (something to be considered in any DUI case where a police officer has initiated a stop of the Defendant's vehicle). Though the video can in some cases be very helpful in determining the question one way or another, it is not the only evidence available. Witness testimony, including testimony of the police officer initiating the stop, is also important. DUI stops often occur after dark, when lighting conditions are poor. Camera sensors are not nearly as good at seeing in the dark as is the human eye. In the case of a video that is inconclusive, witness testimony can still be conclusive. That was the case in the recent Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals opinion in State v. Patterson, M2010-02360-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 8-22-2011).
In Tennessee criminal proceedings, character evidence is not generally admissible to prove that a defendant acted in conformity with a character trait. So the State would not be allowed to introduce evidence of gang affiliation to show that a defendant, as a gang member, is likely to be guilty of the types of crimes that gang members generally commit. However, evidence of gang affiliation may be admissible if it is relevant to some specific issue (other than just being introduced to impeach the defendant's character).