EXCLUDED QUESTION; STRICKEN EVIDENCE
This blog post will answer the following questions on the legal concepts of excluded questions and stricken evidence:
What does it mean to exclude a question in a court of law?
During a trial, it is the duty of attorneys to object to evidence that may not be admissible under a particular court’s rules of evidence.
If a judge “sustains” an objection—that is, if he or she does not allow a witness to answer a question posed by a lawyer—the jury must disregard the question. Jurors are not allowed to wonder or guess about what the answer to a question might have been.
Is an unanswered question admissible evidence?
NO, a lawyer’s unanswered question itself, no matter how artfully phrased, is not any evidence. The purpose of a question is to be used to 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 of law strikes evidence or testimony?
When a judge “strikes” evidence or testimony from the court record, this means the piece of evidence or testimony brought before the court must be disregarded.
The purpose of striking evidence in accordance with the rules of evidence is not to conceal relevant evidence from jurors. The purpose is to make sure that all evidence jurors are to take into consideration is presented in a reliable form so that they are in a fair position to assess its truth. If a judge strikes evidence, it is because the judge thinks it would be unreliable or misleading to rely on it in the form it was presented.
Testimony or evidence a judge may strike is no longer evidence. Therefore, it MUST be subtracted from the consideration of jurors 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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