Sunday, July 14, 2013

Common Trial Objections


Logic is a wonderful thing. Logic brought me to my default position of agnostic, atheism. Logic brought me to a place of default skepticism about any proposition one asks me to accept. When we are growing up, we tend to be credulous about things people tell us: parents, authority figures, politicians, television, YouTube and the internet. Without a solid foundation in logic (philosophy) we are gullible apes. 

We cannot change the fact that we are apes, but the gullible part we can change. 

Logic has two realms. The first realm: how do we reason? Which mode of reasoning is valid and/or fallacious  For example, we know that there are flaws of inductive logic, because when a person's behavior does not match our expected outcome, we realize that our entire system of thinking must be recycled and replaced. Studying modes of thought is not easy, but it is something we must do if we are to become smarter, more rational people. 

The second realm of logic questions what we do with valid reasoning. So before we begin with the substance of this essay, which is, trial objections and the logic behind them, lets first watch Michael Shermer Bullshit Detector Kit to refresh our  understanding as to, why being a rational thinker is very important. 

I am writing about common trail objections today, because I want to better understand the logic behind them. Bye that, there is a reasoning mode behind each one of them. One person objects because the other person is asking a logically unfair question. 

"Objection, your Honor, the question is ambiguous."
A question is ambiguous if: It may be misunderstood by the witness. It is objectionable on the ground that it may take on more than one meaning.
"Objection, your Honor, the question is argumentative."
A question is argumentative if:
 It is asked for the purpose of persuading the jury or the judge, rather than to elicit information.
 It calls for an argument in answer to an argument contained in the question.
 It calls for no new facts, but merely asks the witness to concede to inferences drawn by the examiner from proved or assumed facts.
"Objection, your Honor, the question has been asked and answered."
A question may be objectionable on the ground that
 The witness has already answered a substantially similar question asked by the same attorney on the same subject matter.
"Objections, your Honor, the question assumes facts not in evidence."
A question assumes facts not in evidence if:
 It presumes unproved facts to be true. Example: "When did you stop beating your wife?" This question assumes that the person has beaten his wife.
"Objection, your Honor, the question is compound."
A question is objectionable on the ground that it is compound if:
 It joins two or more questions ordinarily joined with the word "or" or the word "and."
"Objection, your Honor, the question is too general."
A question is too general, broad, or indefinite, if:
 It permits the witness to respond with testimony which may be irrelevant or otherwise inadmissible. Each question should limit the witness to a specific answer on a specific subject.
"Objection, your Honor, the question is hearsay."
A question is hearsay if:
 It invites the witness to offer an out-of-court statement to prove the truth of some matter in court. There are many exceptions to the hearsay rule.
A question is irrelevant if:
 It invites or causes the witness to give evidence not related to the facts of the case at hand.
"Objection, your Honor, the question is leading."
A question is leading if:
 It is one that suggests to the witness the answer the examining party desires. However, this type of question is allowed on cross-examination of a witness.
"Objection, your Honor, the question mis-states the evidence."
A question misstates the evidence if:
 It misstates or misquotes the testimony of a witness or any other evidence produced at a hearing or at a trial.
"Objection, your Honor, the question calls for a narrative answer."
A question calls for a "narrative answer" if:
 It invites the witness to narrate a series of occurrences, which may produce irrelevant or otherwise inadmissible testimony.
Question and Answer interrogation is the standard format. It allows opposing counsel to object to improper questions.
"Objection, your Honor, the question calls for speculation."
A question is speculative if:
 It invites or causes the witness to speculate or answer on the basis of conjecture.

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