This blog post will answer some frequently asked questions on the legal concepts of excluded questions and stricken evidence.
What does it mean to exclude evidence in court?
During a trial, it is the duty of attorneys to object to evidence that may not be admissible.
If a judge “sustains” an objection the jury must disregard the question. Jurors may not wonder or guess about what the answer to a question might be.
If the objection is allowed is the unanswered question on the record?
No, a lawyer’s unanswered question itself, no matter how artfully phrased, is not any evidence. A question should give meaning to a witness’s answer. If a question includes any suggestions or insinuations, jurors will be instructed to ignore them unless the judge permits the witness to answer the question asked and the witness confirms those suggestions.
The logic behind this reasoning comes down to the simple rule that testimony comes from the witnesses, not from lawyers.
What does it mean when a court "strikes" evidence or testimony?
A judge may “strike” evidence or testimony from the court record.
The purpose of striking evidence in accordance with the rules of evidence is not to conceal relevant evidence from jurors. All evidence presented to jurors should be in a reliable form. If a judge strikes evidence, it is because the judge thinks it is unreliable or misleading.
Testimony or evidence a judge may strike is no longer evidence. Therefore, jurors may not consider it in their deliberations regarding a verdict for the case.
Note also that judges have a responsibility to be careful not to present his or her function in excluding inadmissible evidence in a way that improperly vouches for the reliability of the evidence that is admitted, especially when the defense does not offer any evidence.
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