Anything You Don't Say Will Be Used Against You

 

Weir is charged with the murder of Buchanan. The evidence is that in the course of a fight in a nightclub parking lot, Buchanan pinned Weir to the ground. Buchanan then jumped to his feet and shouted that he had been stabbed; he ultimately died from stab wounds. Weir immediately left the scene and did not report the incident to the police. At trial, Weir admitted stabbing Buchanan, but testified that he acted in self-defense and that the stabbing was accidental. This trial testimony was the first time Weir offered an exculpatory version of the events. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Weir why, when arrested, he had failed to offer this exculpatory version of what happened or to reveal the location of the knife used in the stabbing. On Weir's objection to this line of questioning, what ruling and why? Should the court's ruling depend on whether Weir had been given his Miranda warnings?

Consider the relationship between relevance analysis and constitutional analysis. Does one logically precede the other? On what basis is Marshall dissenting in Jenkins? As a matter of state or federal evidentiary law, see footnote 5 to the majority's opinion in Jenkins, is such evidence of evasion or suppression or destruction of evidence always relevant, and when does the danger of prejudice substantially outweigh its probativeness? See United States v. Hale, 422 U.S. 171 (1975), and Fletcher v. Weir, 455 U.S. 603 (1982). See also Nesson, Incentives to Spoliate Evidence in Civil Litigation: The Need for Vigorous Judicial Action, 13 Cardozo L. Rev. 793 (1991).



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