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The best evidence rule is a familiar rule of proof with its roots dating back in the mid eighteenth century (Herman, 2006). The rule states that, in order to establish the truth in any evidence whether written, recorded or pictorial, only the original copy of the evidence is accepted to be submitted in a court of law. The exception is in the event that a valid reason is given showing that the originals cannot be produced. In situations that the original information cannot be traced, testimonies from the creator of the original copy or the person who might have read it (if written), listened to it (if recorded), seen it (if pictorial) may be called upon to testify to its content. However, in recent times new rules on evidence allow the use of electronic, motionless and other copies as a substitute for the originals (Herman, 2006). The universal rule is that any secondary evidence such as a recorded excerpt or a copy will not be accepted if an original article exists.
Why was the best evidence rule implemented into the U.S. court system? Explain.
The best evidence rule was preferred for originally written or recorded evidence over their photocopies because the evidence in these documents was trustworthy and was of great importance in a court of law. In the United States, the court system believed that any secondary evidence was inaccurate. In 1972, a leaked source of information to the Washington Post by a top secret informant had opened way for the fall of Richard M. Nixon, the United States President (Cavender, 2010). Respected journalists in the names of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had obtained information from reliable sources that carried serious allegations. They claimed that numerous improprieties including a forced entry into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was planned and executed by a committee set up to oversee the re-election of the President. In later days, the articles written by these two gentlemen (journalists) based on that information led to a scam called the Watergate scandal. He resigned as the President on august 9, 1974. After his resignation, the scandal was not yet done; it also saw the accusation, trial and imprisonment of a number of top officers in Nixon’s administration (Cavender, 2010).
The best evidence rule as enclosed in the Federal Rules of Evidence calls for the use of originally written, recorded and photographic materials that includes among others x-rays and pictures in motion. In line with this, It is elaborated that original documents or evidence include any printings and photocopies from the same negative. This weight of the evidence it provides underlines the reason as to why the rule was readily implemented in the U.S. court system.
What is the rationale behind its application?
The basis for the application of the best evidence rule will better be understood from the circumstances in which it arises. An example arose in the eighteenth century whereby one handmade copy was used as evidence in the court system. This set a stage for the best evidence rule on a clear assumption that if at one time the original was not produced in court, there was a considerable room of inaccuracy in relying solely on such a copy (Emanuel, 2009). The rationale behind the best evidence rule has two main arguments:
- Fraud Deterrence
We have had arguments that the best evidence rule protects against fraudulent evidence. It is assumed that an original document is less vulnerable to fraudulent exploitation than an oral testimony about the writing. By accepting originals only, this rule is said to fraudulent deals. Even where the best rule applies, it may be inapplicable to prevent fraud works to undermine the fraud rationale. Newer technologies like manipulating signatures and scanning have made it easier to formulate a document (Emanuel, 2009). No means of fraud control is perfect although the best evidence rule may prevent fraud detection.
- Minimizing Misinterpretation of Writings
The rationale provided is that the best evidence rule was designed to reduce any possibilities of a false impression of the writings by requiring that the original documents be provided if available. Preventing misinterpretations is a crucial goal and yet modern expansions of the discovery undercut this to justify the best evidence rule concept. The fact that juries are able to scrutinize original documents during discovery means that, they can also determine inaccuracies before trial rather than discovering the same problems through the best evidence rule.
Review the following cases with regard to wiretapping:
Olmstead v. United States
The federal agents secretly installed wiretaps in Olmstead’s office building and in the streets near his home base. He was later convicted with the evidential proof that was obtained from the wiretaps. The case was based on unlawfully acquired wire-tapped conversations for a plot to violate the National Prohibition Act by importing, possessing and selling illicit liquors.
The decision to use wiretapped conversations as incriminating evidence didn’t violate their Fifth Amendment protection against self incrimination because those conversations were not illegally conducted but were made between the associated parties voluntarily. Separately, the party’s Fourth Amendments rights were violated because a simple act of wiretapping does not include a search and seizure the sole meaning of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, the court ruled that for moral reasons wiretapping may be unethical but no court may exclude this evidence.
Nardone v. United States
In this case, it was very difficult to realize which information was primarily used for investigation purposes because due to high security alert, large of information was recorded. In search identifying which information violates the right to privacy, the law enforcers must be able to see, hear and understand pieces of information that does not relate to primary purpose of the research. The finally argues that he does not understand how the government can use the words consciously spoken by a man to bring him to judgment. In this regime, a man chooses to speak or keep quiet if he chooses to and that wiretapping met the credentials to be used in a court of law.
Goldman v. United States
In this court, it was determined that the use of a detectaphone did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The device was placed against an office wall so that it could record private conversations in the next door office. In ruling so, the court determined that there was no physical infringement in connection with the intercepted conversation. It comes into light that the Fourth Amendment protects the persons in question and necessarily areas against unwarranted searches and seizures.
Berger v. New York
In this case, Mr. Berger is convicted with two counts of plotting to bribe the Chairperson of the New York State Liquor Authority. The erupts when Ralph Pansini submits a complaint to the District Attorney’s office that the New York State Liquor Authority agents had entered his bar and seized his accounts books and records. He asserts that the attack was as a result of refusal to pay for the license. In this case, Pansini uses a mini-recording device to interview and record the response of the authority employee on the exact license price.
Katz v. United States
Charles Katz had sought the services of a public phone booth to transfer unauthorized betting wagers from Los Angeles to Miami and Boston. Unluckily for him, the FBI was keeping data of his phone conversations by use of an electronic eavesdropping device that they had attached to the exterior phone booth. He appealed but the court rejected his pleas because there was no physical intrusion into the phone booth itself despite several constitutional issues being sited.
Summarize the current status of wiretapping restrictions according to the reviewed cases above.
In all the cases there are varied views on whether it is legitimate to always employ the services of wiretapping in a court of law. In conclusion we realize that both Olmstead and Goldman’s cases have been diluted by our own decisions. The question arises of whether the search and seizure is constitutional and meets the standards (Nemeth, 2011). It is confirmed that the decision by the Government to listen and record electronic information of the petitioner goes against his right of using the telephone booth. The argument that the electronic device used to record the information didn’t penetrate the wall of the booth has no constitutional basis. The Government remains adamant that its agents acted in a defensive manner and that they started the investigation after confirming the suspect was using the said telephone booth to transfer gambling materials to people in other States and that was an infringement of the federal law. In all the cases, I realize that wiretapping as used by the Government agencies is restricted to only that information that violates the federal laws and that the whole process of wiretapping is for solely security purposes.
How must evidence derived from wiretapping be packaged and preserved? Explain.
The evidence obtained from wiretapping is crucial in the various cases in question. This information should be stored and sealed in large equipments that cannot be moved with ease. For crime evidence like blood stained clothes should be kept on plastic papers to avoid evidence being tampered with as this may compromise the original evidence.
In cases of ammunition, it should be kept far from water or warmth places to prevent it from rusting. I should be kept in sealed plastic containers. Further considerations are on access and control of the storage whereby safes and locks should be employed. There should be a system of more than one person at any moment to be able to access the documents.
How does wiretapping evidence relate to the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine? Explain.
Wiretapping is the process where an electronic device installed secretly records information from unsuspecting victims to be used later against them as evidence in a court of law while the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine evidence is not used if it was gotten through an unwarranted arrest or pervasive search. This doctrine was primarily set up to prevent law enforcers from infringing on rights against unwarranted searches and seizures (Solove, Rotenberg & Schwartz, 2006).
What is the likely outcome of your case in court if the originals are not located? Explain.
The case might not stand trial and will be thrown out because in court any evidence must be documented with enough proof. Both parties will fail to agree on pieces of information whose originality lies in the balance. In court, the lawyers of the accused serve to determine that evidence provided against their client is vague and in situations where evidence is not substantiated, these lawyers will have an easy time defeating the case.
What are the purposes of DNA testing? Explain in detail. Provide examples where necessary.
DNA testing plays a great role in our lives. This testing answers numerous questions that include our biological relations and also helps in identification of genetic illness (Solove, Rotenberg & Schwartz, 2006). It serves the following purposes:-
- Ensuring the paternity of the child. It is mainly where there are two parties fighting over the father of the kid. A simple DNA will solve this issue.
- Helps in genetic testing
- DNA testing solves adoption differences
- DNA testing settles the differences on who between the two parents remains with the kids in the case of divorce.
- It solves inheritance disputes. Here, DNA is used to determine who are allowed to inherit assets from the deceased.
- Highly used to solve immigration differences. It may be used determines the true citizenship of the person in question
- DNA testing is used to link suspects to their previous inhumane acts. For example, DNA tests from blood stained clothes can be proof if the suspect actually killed the victim in question.
What is law enforcement’s role in making DNA testing possible today when it was not possible 15–20 years ago? Explain. Provide examples when necessary.
In 15- 20 years ago, DNA testing was not readily accepted by the larger population because of the tedious processes that were involved. DNA required powerful machines to give the wanted information and it was very expensive hence very few people could afford the costs involved (Nemeth, 2011). In recent times, we have experienced technological advancements that have made it easier for the DNA tests to be performed and results provided in real time basis without delay. The numbers of court cases that need to determine the paternity of the child have also risen. Most court cases pertaining DNA have been directed to the hospitals and through this, the law enforcers have played a big role in informing the public that these services exist.
Law enforcement authorities that include the Government have invested in newer medical systems that the makes the whole process of DNA testing reliable. This is in relation with the accuracy measures of these machines. Back then, the services could be accessed with difficulty and to a few people because the machines were very few but nowadays the DNA services are within reach of most of the people.
Discuss how the best evidence rule can come into play when dealing with DNA evidence.
The best evidence rule states that in order to establish the truth in any evidence; written, recorded or pictorial, only the original copy of the evidence is accepted to be submitted in a court of law except in the event that a valid reason is given showing that the originals cannot be produced. It comes into play when dealing with DNA evidence in a criminal investigation. In most criminal investigations, the main point is providing the evidence that relates the crime scene with the suspects in question (Nemeth, 2011). Tests are carried out in laboratories to get the suspects. An example is during an accident in which many people die, DNA tests must be carried out to link the accident victims to their real families.