Luke A. Hawley


Courts generally prohibit the admission of unfairly prejudicial evidence. The idea is that jurors should not be shown evidence if it has a substantially greater likelihood of prejudicing the jurors against the defendant than it does of helping them determine the facts of the case. Barring objections on other evidentiary grounds, if a piece of evidence provides substantially more probative than prejudicial value, the evidence can be shown to the jury. For decades, Missouri courts have limited the admissibility of unfairly prejudicial evidence. While federal courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence, Missouri is one of the few states that does not have an evidence code or stated rules of evidence. Instead, evidence in Missouri courts is governed by a loose body of case precedent and state statutes. Regarding prejudicial evidence in particular, Missouri courts are guided solely by case precedent. Missouri judges are given great latitude in determining whether evidence should be excluded based on its prejudicial nature. Abuse of that discretion can expose jurors to unfairly prejudicial testimony which may skew their perceptions of the defendant.

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