Evidence Rules Are Crazy

(NOTE: Originally posted at http://kansasprogress.com on July 14, 2009.

I was reading a Kansas City Star article about Gloria Squitiro’s journal being disclosed in court. It got me thinking about how our evidence rules in this country have gone horribly amok.

My first thought was “how the heck did anyone even get their hands on her diary?” And then my next thought was “did she actually voluntarily turn it over!?” Who knows. The article doesn’t say. The fact is, however, that her personal diary was being read in court.

That sounds just a little bit like self-incrimination, doesn’t it?

That’s not the point of this article, though.

How many times have we heard about evidence being suppressed because it was “improperly obtained”? It happens all the time. They will have the murder weapon smeared with the perp’s fingerprints and the judge will say “no, you can’t use it because the police collected it improperly.”

I realize the basis of these moronic rules is protection from illegal search and seizure. I get that. What I don’t get is how we can let someone OBVIOUSLY guilty off the hook because the police didn’t bag something correctly.

I propose that improperly obtained evidence should still be allowed in court. The officers who collected it improperly or searched illegally should be punished for their crime, but the guilty party should never get off the hook on a technicality.

Prior crimes by an individual are often suppressed during a new trial. So you may have a guy on trial that’s been convicted of rape 4 times and is now on trial for rape again… but for some reason we can’t tell the jury? It seems to me that is some pretty important background information!

We’ve gotten so hung up on protecting the rights of the accused, we’ve forgotten to protect the rights of the victims. It’s time to change the rules of evidence from something well-intentioned to something pragmatic and logical.