What Is Involved in the Presentation of Evidence?

Mary McMahon

The presentation of evidence requires producing evidence for a court, having it recognized, and allowing all parties present to examine it. Opposing counsel can file an objection, in which case the judge has to review the situation, consider the rules of evidence, and decide whether to sustain or overrule the objection. This includes physical and electronic evidence as well as witnesses to the case. Parties may provide a list of evidence they plan to introduce at the start of the trial, and they can also introduce evidence at any time during the course of the proceedings, as long as it falls before closing arguments.

A list of witnesses is compiled before a trial begins so both sides have an opportunity to object.
A list of witnesses is compiled before a trial begins so both sides have an opportunity to object.

With witnesses, the parties to a case provide a witness list before the trial, and have an opportunity to object to given witnesses. Attorneys may not call all the witnesses on their lists. When they do call witnesses, each witness must be sworn in to testify in court. The attorney who calls the witness can conduct an interview before turning the witness over to opposing counsel for a cross-examination. Following this, the original attorney can ask some additional questions in a redirect. Either party can waive the right to cross-examination or redirection during the presentation of evidence from a witness.

Other kinds of evidence can include physical, documentary, and electronic evidence. To bring evidence into the courtroom, the attorney must have it numbered and described in sequence by the court clerk. She brings the evidence and supporting documentation into court and asks for permission to introduce it. If the judge agrees, she will describe the evidence for the jury and ask a witness to authenticate it. For example, in a murder trial, the prosecution could introduce the autopsy report as exhibit A and ask the forensic pathologist to identify and verify it so the jury knows it is genuine. Fans of crime dramas may be familiar with the requirements for the presentation of evidence of this nature.

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Evidence brought into court can be passed around to members of the jury to allow them to examine it closely. It is usually secured in protective packaging during the presentation of evidence to keep it clean and eliminate contamination in case it needs further evaluation or testing. In cases where evidence is disturbing, the judge may clear the court to prevent disruptions; for example, a video of a violent crime scene may be necessary evidence, but could be upsetting for members of the audience to watch. After evidence circulates, bailiffs secure it in custody for the duration of the case in case it needs to be referenced again.

During the presentation of evidence, opposing counsel can ask to have the evidence rejected, or request special directions to the jury from the judge. This may be done on the grounds that the evidence is irrelevant, questionable, or prejudicial in nature. In cases where a judge sustains an objection to evidence, the jury is asked to disregard it.

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