Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Fed. R. Evid. 402 declares that all relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by Act of Congress, by these rules, or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority. In turn, Fed. R. Evid. 401 defines relevant evidence as evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. To be relevant, evidence need not be conclusive proof of a fact sought to be proved, or even strong evidence of the same. All that is required is a tendency to establish the fact at issue. The Advisory Committee Notes to the 1972 Proposed Rules remind us that relevancy is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence but exists only as a relation between an item of evidence and a matter properly provable in the case. In that relation, the fact to be proved may be ultimate, intermediate, or evidentiary; it matters not, so long as it is of consequence in the determination of the action.
Defendant was convicted in federal court by a jury of the felony crimes of (1) traveling across state lines with intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), and (2) using an interstate facility to attempt to persuade a minor to engage in sexual acts, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). To prove that defendant harbored the specific subjective intent these crimes require, the government used as evidence lewd stories describing sexual acts between adults and children in defendant’s immediate possession when arrested. A divided panel of the appellate court reversed the defendant’s conviction.
Did the district court err in admitting in evidence the sexually explicit materials in defendant’s possession at the time of his arrest?
The appellate court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the stories in defendant's PDA in his possession at the time of his arrest contained relevant evidence pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) insofar as they related to sexual acts between adults and minors. The evidence had probative value with respect to the intent element of the specific intent crime for which he was prosecuted. The district court properly required the prosecution to demonstrate the evidence's connection to the crime with which defendant was charged. Having determined that the evidence was relevant to show intent, the district court's remaining responsibility was carefully to limit the evidence to avoid a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 403, i.e., to ensure that the evidence's potentially prejudicial effect did not substantially outweigh its probative value.