Every court drama on tv sets the stage: one side of the case presents evidence or a witness on the stand makes a statement and the other side objects. The judge then quickly responds with “sustained” and asks the jury to disregard the evidence that was just presented and motions to have it stricken from the record.
Unlike much of what happens in court dramas, this situation actually does unfold similarly in real life. Attorneys will often ask to have evidence that’s speculative or impermissible disregarded and stricken from the record. But, how can you expect a jury of people to actually ignore evidence that could have a meaningful impact on the case?
Defense Must Be Prepared
Any good defense attorney should be ready for curveballs that may come up in a case – such as prior incidents, character testimony (despite not being permitted in Indiana courts), or other evidence that could trip up the defense. This means being prepared to object to evidence that should never be entered into the record, but it also means understanding the risk you create by drawing extra attention to such evidence.
Another factor will be the defense working with their client(s) to understand what it means for their chances if such evidence ends up being accidentally or intentionally entered into the record. What other outcomes are now possible with this evidence on the table? What does the client know about this evidence and how it relates to their case?
It is human nature to think about something when you are explicitly asked not to. Members of the jury will wonder why they were asked to disregard a specific piece of evidence which will result in the information sticking in their minds.
Motion in Limine
This is why a good defense attorney is essential. Not only is it their discretion in the courtroom that could result in evidence truly being disregarded, but they should also get ahead of such evidence by filing a Motion in Limine.
These motions are filed ahead of time to ensure that irrelevant or unreliable evidence is not permitted in the courtroom. If a motion is approved then the prosecution could risk a mistrial by attempting to enter such evidence into the record.
Judge Will Use Discretion
On top of the attorneys showing discretion, the judge will do the same. A judge may ask the prosecution if they want them to draw attention to the evidence by ordering that the jury disregard it.
An attorney will consider the pros and cons of doing so. Even if it’s ultimately decided that the judge should not draw attention to the evidence, the judge will inform the prosecution that they are at risk of a mistrial if they continue to enter such evidence.
When Juries Decide a Case Based on Impermissible Evidence
As we noted above, it is sometimes challenging for the jury not to consider the evidence once they are exposed to it. So, what if you can prove that a guilty verdict was reached based on evidence that was ordered to be disregarded?
In this case, your attorney should file an appeal. If it can be proven that the evidence was highly prejudicial then it is likely that the appeal will be successful.
Our team at Blankenship Law has encountered this very issue in Indiana courtrooms. We understand the importance of navigating these instances with discretion. The best defense is a defense that is prepared and aware of all possibilities in a courtroom. Contact us for an experienced defense team ready to defend your freedom.