When a person is charged with a crime, the State will often try to present evidence of other bad acts performed by the defendant or evidence that is intended to inflame the passions of the jury. When wielded correctly, Rule 403 gives your defense attorney a weapon to fight back with.
Rule 403 states that “[r]elevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” This simply means that a judge may decide that certain evidence may not be presented to the jury if it is likely to prejudice the jury against the defendant, is a waste of time, or is unnecessarily cumulative (an example of unnecessarily cumulative evidence would be prosecutors showing a music video where the defendant points guns and claiming it is being shown for identification purposes when other witnesses had already identified the defendant in surveillance footage from the incident) . A 2020 Georgia Supreme Court case says it perfectly: “the major function of rule governing exclusion of relevant evidence due to prejudice, confusion, or waste of time is to exclude matters of scant or cumulative probative force, dragged in by the heels for the sake of its prejudicial effect.” Jernigan v. State, 357 Ga.App. 415.
A recent example of Rule 403 being used effectively was in the Ross Harris case from 2016. Ross Harris was charged with intentionally leaving his son in the hot car where he ultimately died. The State presented evidence of text messages Harris had sent to underage girls as well as large amounts of evidence of Harris’ infidelity. Although Harris was convicted of sex crimes and murder, his attorneys used Rule 403 at his appeal to show that the two crimes (sexual texts with underage girls and murder) should have been tried separately. While the text messages proved he was guilty of the sex crimes, they did nothing to prove Harris’ intent when he walked away from his car and were highly prejudicial when the jury considered the murder charge.
If you find yourself facing serious charges, it is important that you hire a lawyer that understands the rules of evidence and will use every tool available to prevent the jury from hearing prejudicial evidence. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith will explore every aspect of your case and fight for you in the courtroom to give you the best chance of hearing “Not Guilty”. If you face serious charges like rape, murder, child molestation, drug trafficking, or aggravated assault in Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Rockdale, or Barrow counties, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.