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7th Circuit cautions bare-bones recitation of Rule 403 insufficient

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A District Court’s failure to review evidence and provide a considered analysis for admitting that evidence drew an admonishment – but no reversal - from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 7th Circuit affirmed Christopher Eads’s conviction and 40-year sentence for distributing child pornography, possessing child pornography and tampering with a witness in United States of America v. Christopher Eads, 12-2466.

Prior to his trial, Eads, representing himself, agreed to stipulate that the images and videos found in his possession depicted unlawful child pornography.

When the government prepared to show those images to the jury, however, Eads objected. He argued that the government had no need to present the photos and short video because of the stipulation. Eads stated that showing the images would be unreasonably prejudicial, citing Federal Rule of Evidence 403.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, overruled.

On appeal, Eads asserted the district court erred because it did not examine the pictures and videos itself before admitting them into evidence. He also argued that the District Court should have given a more robust explanation of how it balanced the factors under Rule 403 in deciding to admit the images.

The 7th Circuit noted there is some uncertainty as to whether the lower court did review the actual photos and videos. Still, it reiterated its past advice that the “safest course,” especially given the highly inflammatory nature of this type of evidence, is for the District Court to review the contested evidence itself to determine if the potential prejudicial impact is too great.

In regards to Rule 403, the 7th Circuit agreed with Eads.

The district court responded to Eads objections during trial, saying the photos were relevant to the government proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This caused the 7th Circuit to caution the lower court against a “pro-forma recitation of the Rule 403.” Instead, the District Court should have carefully analyzed the prejudicial effect of the evidence and offered a detailed explanation of how it balanced the factors under Rule 403.

Still, the 7th Circuit found the admission of the images was a harmless error. The evidence against Eads was overwhelming and showing the pictures to the jury did not change the outcome of the trial.
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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