A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

 

Defendant, Jack Lopinson, is charged with having secured the murder of his wife, Judith, and his partner and accountant, Joseph Malito, whose bullet-ridden bodies were found early one morning in the basement office of defendant's Philadelphia restaurant, Dante's Inferno. Defendant's explanation was that the restaurant had been held up by an unknown man, who had fatally shot Judith and Joseph and wounded Lopinson.

At trial, the state calls Dr. Marvin Aronson, the County Medical Examiner, to testify to what he observed at Dante's the morning of the crime. As part of Dr. Aronson's testimony the state offers eight color slides of the crime scene. The defense objects. As part of the state's offer of proof Dr. Aronson testifies that the slides will aid him in describing to the jury the scene and the cause of death. Specifically, the state contends that the slides are offered for the following purposes:

(1) To show the scene of the murdersthat is, where the murders were committed;

(2) To show the location of the dead bodies;

(3) To show the position and condition of the bodies and the posture of the bodies in relationship to other things in the room;

(4) To show the location, nature, character, and extent of the wounds inflicted and where each wound was in relationship to the other;

(5) To show the location of the points of entry of the bullets into the bodies; to show distinctly the existence of powder burns and the residue of gun powder around the wounds; to show that the injuries were to the vital parts of the bodies;

(6) To show the cause of death of the two victimsthat is, to show the severity and the violence of the assault; and

(7) To aid the doctor in giving his testimony to the jury.

The defense contends that the prejudicial effect of the slides outweighs their probative worth and offers to stipulate to the cause of death. The state refuses the offered stipulation.

How should the court rule? How should the court go about deciding how to rule?



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