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Posts tagged "witness"

Conviction Reversed Due to Witness Sequestration Violation

In a criminal trial, sequestration of witnesses refers to preventing witnesses who may testify in the trial from hearing the testimony offered by other witnesses. The purpose of the rule is to prevent witness testimony from being affected by hearing what an earlier testifying witness has said. Though a prosecutor may sometimes keep an investigator or other party essential to the presentation of the case at the prosecutor's table during trial, that person should generally be called as the first witness in the State's case if that person intends to testify at all. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Cooper, M2013-01084-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 12-17-2014), the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a conviction due to the State's violation of this principle.

Conviction Reversed Due to Witness Sequestration Violation

In a criminal trial, sequestration of witnesses refers to preventing witnesses who may testify in the trial from hearing the testimony offered by other witnesses. The purpose of the rule is to prevent witness testimony from being affected by hearing what an earlier testifying witness has said. Though a prosecutor may sometimes keep an investigator or other party essential to the presentation of the case at the prosecutor's table during trial, that person should generally be called as the first witness in the State's case if that person intends to testify at all. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Cooper, M2013-01084-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 12-17-2014), the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a conviction due to the State's violation of this principle.

Violation of Right to Confront Witnesses Was Harmless Error

The right to confront witnesses in a criminal case is guaranteed by both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. But violation of the right to confront witnesses does not necessarily invalidate a criminal conviction if the error is determined to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Clark, M2012-01744-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 11-21-13), the Court of Criminal Appeals determined the State violated confrontation rights by allowing the use of a video recorded deposition rather than a live witness at trial (absent 'extraordinary circumstances' which would have allowed the substitution of the deposition). However, the Court found the error to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Violation of Right to Confront Witnesses Was Harmless Error

The right to confront witnesses in a criminal case is guaranteed by both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. But violation of the right to confront witnesses does not necessarily invalidate a criminal conviction if the error is determined to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Clark, M2012-01744-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 11-21-13), the Court of Criminal Appeals determined the State violated confrontation rights by allowing the use of a video recorded deposition rather than a live witness at trial (absent 'extraordinary circumstances' which would have allowed the substitution of the deposition). However, the Court found the error to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Violation of Right to Confront Witnesses Was Harmless Error

The right to confront witnesses in a criminal case is guaranteed by both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. But violation of the right to confront witnesses does not necessarily invalidate a criminal conviction if the error is determined to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Clark, M2012-01744-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 11-21-13), the Court of Criminal Appeals determined the State violated confrontation rights by allowing the use of a video recorded deposition rather than a live witness at trial (absent 'extraordinary circumstances' which would have allowed the substitution of the deposition). However, the Court found the error to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Video Deposition Can be Permissible in a Criminal Trial

Depositions, though common in civil litigation, are not often part of a criminal trial or criminal discovery process in Tennessee. A conventional method of pre-trial discovery in a civil case, depositions are used only under exceptional circumstances in Tennessee criminal cases, and are only supposed to be used to preserve testimony for use at trial, from a witness not likely to be able to testify at trial. Their purpose is limited to preserving evidence for trial, rather than for pre-trial discovery. The decision of whether to grant or deny a motion to depose a witness in a criminal case is discretionary with the trial court. But the trial court must follow narrow guidelines for determining when exceptional circumstances exist. In the recent case of State v. Gold, E2012-00387-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 8-15-2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to allow the State to depose a witness who would be relocating outside the United States, and affirmed the use of the video at trial.

Video Deposition Can be Permissible in a Criminal Trial

Depositions, though common in civil litigation, are not often part of a criminal trial or criminal discovery process in Tennessee. A conventional method of pre-trial discovery in a civil case, depositions are used only under exceptional circumstances in Tennessee criminal cases, and are only supposed to be used to preserve testimony for use at trial, from a witness not likely to be able to testify at trial. Their purpose is limited to preserving evidence for trial, rather than for pre-trial discovery. The decision of whether to grant or deny a motion to depose a witness in a criminal case is discretionary with the trial court. But the trial court must follow narrow guidelines for determining when exceptional circumstances exist. In the recent case of State v. Gold, E2012-00387-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 8-15-2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to allow the State to depose a witness who would be relocating outside the United States, and affirmed the use of the video at trial.

Video Deposition Can be Permissible in a Criminal Trial

Depositions, though common in civil litigation, are not often part of a criminal trial or criminal discovery process in Tennessee. A conventional method of pre-trial discovery in a civil case, depositions are used only under exceptional circumstances in Tennessee criminal cases, and are only supposed to be used to preserve testimony for use at trial, from a witness not likely to be able to testify at trial. Their purpose is limited to preserving evidence for trial, rather than for pre-trial discovery. The decision of whether to grant or deny a motion to depose a witness in a criminal case is discretionary with the trial court. But the trial court must follow narrow guidelines for determining when exceptional circumstances exist. In the recent case of State v. Gold, E2012-00387-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 8-15-2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to allow the State to depose a witness who would be relocating outside the United States, and affirmed the use of the video at trial.

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