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Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal

Authors

Katharyn Bond

Abstract

Videotape presentations in courtroom proceedings are admissible upon the proper foundation of accuracy and faithfulness. Anyone present at the taping of the crime scene may establish the requisite foundation. The admissibility of videotaped evidence is premised on the assumption that the technology itself is neutral and reliable, and that it accurately conveys what is in front of the camera. This note counters the validity of this assumption in the context of crime scene videotapes. Grisly crime scenes are now videotaped by police officers and later used by prosecutors at trial as demonstrative evidence. This note argues that it is the production techniques, not the horrific visual content on the screen, that is extremely prejudicial to the defense. Utilizing Mass Communication research, this note examines the use of production techniques in the videotaping of crime scenes and their effects. This note argues that ultimately these technical devices package and communicate the producer's intended message to the jurors. As such, crime scene videotapes serve as producers' out-of- court statements of their personal observations of the crime scene. The note examines the detriments to the defense and argues that crime scene videotapes constitute inadmissible hearsay and violate the Confrontation Clause. The note concludes by offering recommendations that are procedural solutions intended to minimize the prejudicial effect of crime scene videotapes.

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