Does a Jury See EVERYTHING?
The short answer is no. Often times there is pieces of evidence that must be sanitized or redacted. Normally, the attorney and the district attorney will discuss and either agree to the limit what the jury can see and not see. And if the parties can't agree on what should and should be redacted then it is usually addressed prior to trial with what is called a motion in limine. A motion in limine is a motion that is filed on the day or trial that ask the judge to do or not do certain things. The judge hears arguments from the lawyers and makes a decision right at that moment. So, if the parties don't agree to redactions before the day or trial, it can usually be done via a motion in limine.
A common redaction might be medical records and what the jury can, may, should or must see. Often in criminal cases, there will be medical records that are introduced for someone. When medical records are introduced, the court ( and the lawyers) don't want to overwhelm and dump a what could be thousands of pages of irrelevant and cumulative documentation to the jury. And often times medical records will have private and personal information that isn't relevant to the case and those too will need to be redacted. The redaction process is vital and occasionally time consuming but a very important piece of the process of advocacy.
This post will answer the following legal questions about evidence with redacted material:
In a court of law, what is redacted material?
Sometimes in a court of law, censored documents are presented to the court and/or jury. These censored documents usually have black markings concealing certain words or sentences. They are called redactions.
Why do courts redact certain documents?
Redactions are used to conceal irrelevant information to the case in question in documents presented to courts. The court does this to ensure that the evidence presented to the court is presented in a fair manner.
Jurors are NOT allowed to speculate about what the irrelevant information is. They are forbidden to engage in any guesswork or speculation about what has been excluded from their view. Jurors are only allowed to decide the facts from the evidence before them.
Ideally, jurors will receive photocopied versions of redacted documents so they cannot read what is redacted by holding the paper or papers up to a light source.
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