COURT DISCUSSES STANDARD FOR ADMITTING DEMONSTRATIVE EVIDENCE IN TEXAS CRIMINAL TRIALS
April 26, 2019
During criminal trials in Texas, it is not uncommon for either party to use demonstrative evidence such as video or audio recordings, or charts or drawings, to make issues clearer for the jury and to help the jury understand the evidence. The jury is still required to determine whether a defendant is guilty based on the factual evidence presented, however. Thus, if the State presents demonstrative evidence that induces the jury to come to a decision based on matters not in evidence, it can result in an unfair verdict. A Texas appellate court recently analyzed when demonstrative evidence goes too far, in a case in which the State showed a video of a lion at the zoo trying to eat a baby during a robbery trial. If you are currently charged with robbery or any other crime it is essential to retain a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney to defend you against the charges you face in hopes of allowing you to retain your rights.
The Alleged Robbery and Subsequent Trial
Allegedly, in 2015, the defendant entered a convenience store and when no one else was around went up to the cashier and stated it was a “stick up” and that he had a weapon. He never showed the cashier a weapon, however. He then demanded money from the cashier and took food and beverages as well before walking out. He was apprehended a short time later with the items and money he stole in a backpack. He did not have any weapons when he was stopped. He was subsequently charged with robbery.
It is reported that during the punishment phase at trial, the State showed a video of a lion behind glass at the zoo appearing to attempt to eat a baby. Defense counsel objected to the use of the video, but the objection was overruled. The State then likened the defendant to the lion, suggesting he posed a threat outside of jail and should receive an enhanced sentence. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison, after which he appealed.
The Standard for Admitting Demonstrative Evidence
On appeal, the defendant’s attorney argued that the trial court erred in allowing the State to show the video because it was highly inflammatory and prejudicial. The court noted that demonstrative aids may be admitted into evidence, but they do not need to be admitted to be shown to the jury. Any demonstrative evidence shown, however, may not be overly inflammatory. The State argued that the video was properly admitted as a plea for law enforcement. In other words, the State believed the video presented the argument that the defendant should face a strong penalty because otherwise, he would continue to commit crimes.
The court held that while the State could use strong speech the argument cannot veer outside of matters in evidence or that can be inferred from evidence. Further, it cannot be abusive or inflammatory. In the subject case, the court held that the video was an improper use of demonstrative evidence because it allowed for the inference that the defendant’s crime and criminal history were more brutal than they were. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the case for a harm analysis.
Meet with a Trusted Texas Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Case
If you are a resident of Texas and are charged with robbery or any other crime it is critical to meet with a trusted Texas criminal defense attorney about your case and your available defenses. Rick Davis is a proficient Texas criminal defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. Mr. Davis can be contacted at 979-779-4357 or through the online form to set up a meeting.