Relevancy, the chief constraint on examination of witnesses or the introduction of physical evidence, has two components:
Probative Value: relationship between the item of evidence and the proposition it is offered to prove and
Materiality: relationship between proposition evidence is offered to prove and the facts at issue in the case.
Rule 401. Definition of “relevant evidence”
“Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
”Any tendency” – lowest possible standard. Shifts emphasis from admissibility to weight. The test for logical relevance is whether the item of evidence has any tendency whatsoever to affect the balance of probabilities of the existence of a fact of consequence.
United States v. Cousins, 35 M.J. 70 (C.M.A. 1992). In prosecution for one time use of cocaine, MJ committed “plain error” by permitting government witness to testify accused had used methamphetamine 9-11 times prior to the charged offense. Evidence did not make accused’s use of cocaine “more or less probable” and was irrelevant. Judge’s instruction that the evidence was presented as “background information” only did not cure the error.
United States v. Huet-Vaughn, 43 M.J. 105 (1995). Army reserve physician’s motives and reasons for refusing to support Desert Shield and views about the lawfulness of her deployment orders irrelevant to charge of desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty.
United States v. Loya, 49 M.J. 104 (1998). Accused convicted of negligent homicide. At sentencing, defense wanted to introduce testimony from treating physician that he disagreed with senior doctor’s treatment of victim. Military judge did not admit the evidence. CAAF held this was prejudicial error. Should have been admitted as mitigation even though this was a judge alone trial.
United States v. Schlamer, 52 M.J. 80 (1999). Accused was charged with the premeditated murder of a female. Victim was found with her throat cut. At trial, the government introduced pictures and writings seized from the accused. In these documents, the accused set out in graphic detail his desires to kill women and have sex with them and commit other violent acts. These writings did not mirror the actual crime, and defense claimed that they were not relevant. Held: 401 is a low standard and since the defense was trying to portray the accused as a docile person, this evidence had some tendency to show a darker side that was consistent with his confession.
United States v. Burns, 53 M.J. 42 (2000). Accused charged with indecent assault. At the accused’s apartment (crime scene) the police found an unused condom at the head of the bed. Government introduced a picture of the condom at trial. Defense objected for lack of relevance. The CAAF ruled that under MRE 401, this evidence was relevant to corroborate the victim’s statement that the assault occurred in the bedroom, and the evidence provided a backdrop to what occurred.
Mil. R. Evid. 402 – Provides all relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise is provided by the Constitution of the United States as applied to members of the armed forces, the code, these rules, this Manual, or any Act of Congress applicable to members of the armed forces. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.
Rule 403. Exclusion of relevant evidence on grounds of prejudice, confusion, or waste of time
Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the members, or by consideration of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.