Evidence Damage and Disclosure
Crucial evidence damage in a legal proceeding could occur through various events causing destruction or significant alteration of the information on the object relied for such purposes. Investigations may be compromised to the extent of the damage depending on the nature of destruction sustained, which may lead to determination of reliance of the remains if any for the object in question. One example of evidence damage is when a fire breakout occurs, burning evidence such that it would be difficult to obtain the intended information. The level of damage sustained may determine the applicability of the evidence remains, but the reliance of the evidence is upon the court to decide against other assessment outcomes.
According to the court’s determination of the level of damage of the evidence object destroyed in such a fire, the remains may pass courts approval for some level of reliance (Coomer 2003). However, the court may find it useful for the proceedings to dismiss the remains to avoid compromising its decision, depending on such grounds it may deem irreparably damaged to rely on the remains in its decision. It therefore implies that the damaged piece of evidence loses its quality for reliance by the court and possible such reliance, if any, must be approved by the court. This underscores the importance of handling evidence during analysis and at any other point during legal proceedings.
In the event of such damage, the court is expected to act in four ways to provide remedies to the other party in the proceedings. It is important for the defense team to take caution against such court actions in the four different ways in order to ensure that the case is not entirely lost through such actions. Firstly, discovery sanctions may be imposed by the court in circumstances that enable the court to attempt to use its inherent powers discovery of evidence. Secondly, evidentially inferences may be allowed by the court in order to ensure that the proceedings use what limited information that the remains may enable. Thirdly, the court may institute tort actions if satisfied that the damage contained elements of intentional act or was as a result of negligence. Finally, the court may also enforce prosecution of such damage as guided by criminal law against actions deemed to constitute obstruction of justice, in this case through such destruction of evidence (Burnette 2012).
In case of uncovering of new damaging evidence in the middle of legal proceedings, the most appropriate action to take is to approach the court in order to ensure that the evidence is properly before court. The initial response in the discovery should be negotiations with the defense team and making it clear that withholding such information would be severely damaging to the outcomes of the case if it emerges at any stage of the proceedings. During the case preparatory stages, disclosure of information is deemed as a central focus on which to build the defense as opposed to avoiding the reality of such information coming out. Discussions and deliberations during case preparedness should therefore leave nothing to chance unless the evidence is deemed immaterial and inconsequential.
In view of the most appropriate thing to do, making full disclosure must come after deliberating on the defense moves to take against such evidence. Court’s requirement of the prosecution and defense teams to make full disclosures takes care of the misunderstandings that the two teams can find themselves in during the proceedings (Buisman, Khan and Gosnel 2010, p353). Despite the court’s directive, it would be difficult to make all disclosures since for practical reasons and the parties may drop certain pieces of evidence for various reasons. Among the reasons, why evidence may be dropped is the impact it may have on the pace of the case.
Alternatively, it would be not an option to consider leaving out such evidence in the disclosure in anticipation that the prosecution was aware of its impact but deemed it unnecessary and superfluous to needs of its evidence. In all cases, however, such an alternative will require sufficient preparation to counter its impact, in case the prosecution relies on it to build its evidence. In opting to leave out such evidence with the hope that the defense would find it inconsequential, the prosecution must be brought to the attention of the evidence and such inconsequential nature negotiated. Under the circumstances that the outcomes of the negotiations on the evidence could bear damaging impact on the defense, the prior preparation on countering such evidence comes in handy. It therefore underscores the importance of a thorough preparation by the defense and the importance of leaving nothing to chance (McGourlay, 2012, p153).
Buisman, C., Khan, K. A., Gosnell, C., (2010) Principles of evidence in International Criminal Justice, New York, NY: Oxford University Press
Burnette, G. E. (2012) Spoliation of evidence: A fire scene dilemma, [Online] Available from <http://www.interfire.org/res_file/spoliatn.asp> [Accessed 12 September 2012].
Coomer, S. J. (2003) The impact of spoliation of evidence: A survey of Texas Law, [Online] Available from http://www.texaslawyers.com/coomer/Paperspo.htm> [Accessed 12 September 2012].
McGourlay, C. (2012) Evidence statutes 2012-2013, New York NY: Routledge