In our last post, we began speaking about a bill currently being considered by Texas lawmakers which would allow juries to be presented a broader scope of information concerning the specific actions taken by an offender prior to an alleged occurrence of abuse. As we noted, the bill has sparked criticism on the grounds that allowing such evidence could be prejudicial to defendants in many cases.
Prejudice, as we’ve pointed out, is a separate consideration from both the relevance and reliability of evidence. That evidence may be prejudicial to a defendant is not a problem unless it is deemed to be unfairly prejudicial. In the rules of evidence, judges are allowed to exclude relevant evidence when its “probative value” (referring to its ability to speak to the issue of the defendant’s guilt or innocence) is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
What exactly constitutes unfair prejudice is an interesting question, and would take much more discussion than we can devote to it here. Suffice it to say that the criticism against the domestic violence bill is that it would be unfairly prejudicial to defendants in too many cases to allow juries a broader scope of evidence than is already ordinarily allowed.
One thing that should be clear to our readers from this discussion is that there are a lot of considerations when it comes to evidence presented in criminal cases. For defendants facing domestic violence charges, it is important to work with an attorney who understands how to navigate evidential issues so as to build the best possible defense case. This will especially be the case if the bill we’ve been discussing is signed into law.