Criminal Evidence
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Criminal Evidence

Jefferson L. Ingram

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eBook - ePub

Criminal Evidence

Jefferson L. Ingram

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About This Book

Criminal Evidence is a respected and trusted introduction to the rules of criminal evidence for criminal justice students and professionals. The first half of this book follows the Federal Rules of Evidence in its explanation of how evidence is collected, preserved, and presented in criminal court. The second half provides a selection of relevant criminal court cases that reinforce these basics and contextualize how these rules are currently practiced. This text offers readers a practical understanding of how concepts of evidence operate to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent.

Part of the John C. Klotter Justice Administration Legal Series, this thirteenth edition provides many updates, including new references to recent Supreme Court cases, such as the decision on same-sex marriage, and a current version of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Student aids include chapter outlines, key terms and concepts lists, a table of cases cited, and online case study questions and glossary. Teacher resources include an instructor's guide, test bank, and PowerPoint slides.

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1.1 Introduction

To the lay observer of any criminal trial, the activities of the attorneys and the judge often confound obvious logic, creating confusion about the procedures surround ing the admission and exclusion of evidence. The form of the objections offered, the arguments presented by the attorneys, and the judge’s reactions only add to the confusion. Logically assuming that the purpose of a trial is to seek the truth, the lay observer is likely to be challenged by objections to the introduction of apparently relevant evidence. Observers may conclude that evidence that could have a direct bearing on the case is, in fact, excluded from use at the trial. To understand why certain evidence is admitted and other evidence is excluded, it is helpful to study the history and evolution of the rules of evidence in several cultures and nations across history.

1.2 Early Attempts to Determine Guilt or Innocence

Throughout the ages, humankind has sought fair methods of reaching the truth in criminal cases. Each culture arrived at a method that was consistent with that culture. Some of these systems of determining guilt or innocence were ridiculous and often barbaric. However, history has helped succeeding generations to develop systems that are more workable.
Every tribe and every people devised a system for protecting the lives and property of its citizens. Authorities noted, however, that only a few cultures developed a well-defined, organized, continuous body of legal ideas and methods that could be called a legal system. According to Wigmore, 16 legal systems developed to a stage at which they could be recognized as a legal system: Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, Hindu, Hebrew, Greek, Maritime, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Church, Japanese, Mohammedan, Slavic, Romanesque, and Anglican.1 Although all of these systems had some effect on modern evidence rules, only a few of the older systems have been selected for discussion because they represent systems that were adopted in part by other cultures and eventually led to our judge–jury system, which in turn was responsible for our rules of evidence. Some of the procedures that developed under these systems are gone, whereas some remain.

A. Egyptian Legal System

In the Egyptian system (the oldest of the systems just listed), the court was made up of 30 judges chosen from the states that constituted Egypt. The defendant was advised in writing of the charges against him or her, and he or she was authorized to answer each charge in writing by: (1) asserting that he or she did not do it; (2) stating that if he or she did it, it was not wrongful; or (3) if it was wrongful, it should bear a lesser penalty than that advocated by his or her accusers. It is interesting to note that at this time (beginning at approximately 4000 B.C.E.) all formal proceedings of the court were conducted without speeches from advocates. It was believed that speeches of advocates would cloud the legal issues, and those speeches, combined with the cleverness of the speakers, the spell of their delivery, and the tears of the accused, would influence many persons to ignore the strict rules of law and the standards of truth.2
The Greek historian Diodorus describes the procedure developed by the Egyptians as follows:

B. Mesopotamian Legal System

Under the early Mesopotamian system, the king was the fountain of justice, receiving the law from divine guidance, but under King Hammurabi, approximately 1795 to 1750 B.C.E.,4 the system envisioned the king as the source of law, granting the king the ability to personally administer justice or to allow local governors or courts of law to handle the matters.5 The Mesopotamian system did not operate with police or a prosecutor, but the judges, who were originally royal priests, found the facts from the evidence and applied the law.6 A record of the trials of this period indicates that the judges called upon the accusers to “produce witnesses or instruments to show guilt.” The judges then examined the facts and reached a conclusion as to guilt or innocence. Once matters had been proven, Hammurabi’s Code had harsh aspects, because it noted, “[i]f a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.”7 This body of law was perhaps the origin of the modern use of testimony and real evidence.8

C. Hebrew Legal System

In the early period of the Hebrew legal system, rabbis developed the law. The law was tied closely to religion, and the judges were considered to act with divine authority. The Pentateuch, which consists of the five books collectively known as the Torah, served as the central foundation of the Hebrew legal system from approximately 1200 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E.9 When the Jewish people came under the control of the Persian, Greek, and Roman rulers, they continued to have their own court system. Individual jurists made the decisions because there appears to be no record of the use of a jury or of counsel to represent the defendant.10

D. Chinese Legal System

One of the earliest recorded legal systems in the world is the Chinese legal system, beginning before 2500 B.C.E. It is unique in that it is the only system that survived for approximately 4,500 years, until the country was taken over by the communists during the twentieth century. Under the ancient Chinese system, there was little difference between civil law and c...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Criminal Evidence
APA 6 Citation
Ingram, J. (2017). Criminal Evidence (13th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2017)
Chicago Citation
Ingram, Jefferson. (2017) 2017. Criminal Evidence. 13th ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Ingram, J. (2017) Criminal Evidence. 13th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Ingram, Jefferson. Criminal Evidence. 13th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2017. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.