March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what the phrase “in evidence” means? We toss it around all the time. “Is that in evidence?” “Your honor, I object because that document is not in evidence.”
The phrase simply means that the judge or the jury can look at the document or hear the testimony, and can consider it in reaching a decision.
The meaning is simple, but the ramifications can be profound.
- If something is not in evidence, it is not part of the record. If it is not part of the record, the judge can not consider it.
- If you offered something into evidence and were denied, you must make the proffered evidence part of the record. If it was oral testimony, you must make an offer of proof (MRE 103(a)(2)). You can do this by requesting to make an “offer of proof,” or a “proffer.” The judge will then allow you to state on the record what the testimony would have been, or will allow you to do it in question-and-answer form (MRE 103(b)). If the ruling was one denying entry of a document in evidence, then you must ask that the document be marked for identification only, which request will always be granted. Remember that neither a proffer nor a document marked solely for identification may be considered by the judge in ruling on the merits; however, they are part of the record on appeal.
- Pleadings are not evidence. Just because you pled something does not mean it is proven.
- Never fail to put on proof based on your assumption that the judge will connect the dots and draw the conclusion favorable to your client. The judge might not. Or the judge might, but there will be inadequate evidence in the record to support the judge’s conclusions, which is the formula for reversal on appeal.
Make sure that every element or factor that you need to prove is supported by proof in evidence. A graphic illustrating this vital concept is here.