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- IN RE: a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware Ronald G. POLIQUIN
- AUSTIN v. CITY OF EAST GR | beschstacenanec.ga () | pp | beschstacenanec.ga
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Prior to commencement of Ortiz's trial, the parties informed the judge that they had agreed to address the admissibility of any photographs on a day-by-day basis, whenever it was likely that the testimony of a witness was going to involve photographic evidence. On the first day of trial, prior to opening statements, the defense objected to three photographs of the bathroom in Deborah's home two blow-ups and one standard size that the State wanted to introduce. The defense objected to the three photographs as cumulative and asked the State to select only one blow-up.
The State argued that the three photographs were relevant to demonstrate the layout of the bathroom, the victim's head injury, and her "as-found" condition. The issue was resolved the next day after the trial judge viewed the police videotape of the victim's home to which the defense objected as cumulative, lengthy, and "in pretty shocking detail".
The trial judge decided to admit the forty-minute videotape and the two blow-up photographs. The trial judge ruled that they were relevant to the element of Ortiz's intent to kill and to his statement to the police that the shooting was accidental. The trial judge also concluded that evidence was not cumulative, stating:. Now, as to the video, and after having viewed it myself, since the video is in motion, the viewer has to see a scan of the body more than once to fully grasp what the video depicts.
If one saw only one scan, in my opinion, a viewer would need to have it shown again to fully understand what was being shown. The three scans taken together aren't excessive in my opinion. The scans do not unduly dwell on the head wound. Neither the two still photos or the video are unfairly prejudicial to the defendant.
Now, as to the length of the videotape, I'm satisfied that what the video depicts is relevant, particularly in light of the fact that one of the charges is arson, and I see no unfair prejudice to the defendant in the length of the videotape. When the State later sought to admit smaller versions of the two blow-up photographs, the defense objected.
The State argued that each smaller photograph was sharper in focus and there was no prejudice to Ortiz. The trial judge agreed. The trial judge also admitted four blow-up photographs showing the hole in the wall, with and without the trajectory rod, and showing the waterbed.
The trial judge ruled that these photographs were not cumulative and there was no unfair prejudice to the defendant. On appeal, in challenging the trial judge's decision to admit the videotape and the State's crime scene photographs, Ortiz submits:. But more to the point, the jurors had been compelled to endure not one, not two, but three complete toe-to-head-to-toe panning sequences of the decedent, giving the decedent's soot covered and burned body the same inch-by-inch treatment as the rest of the video, which lingered each time on the severely traumatized head of the decedent.
To heighten the effect, the State then moved into evidence over the [defendant's] objections two large two by four foot blow-ups which detailed the found condition and location of the body, just as the video had. Then, perhaps for fear that the jury might not yet have gotten the picture, the State moved into evidence the exact same photographic stills in regular sized prints of the views of the body as they had already admitted as blow-ups.
Subsequently, the State moved into evidence over the [defendant's] objections, numerous still photographs depicting the same scenes from the video. Then, again, the State entered blow-ups of several of those same photographs into evidence. Finally, to dispel any lingering doubt, the State displayed all of the photographic stills on the overhead screen with the Elmo.
In this appeal, Ortiz also contends that the trial judge erroneously admitted several autopsy slides into evidence. Pearlman would be examined outside the presence of the jury to explain why she wanted to use five autopsy slides to explain her testimony. Pearlman explained why each slide was necessary to explain how involved or extensive the victim's injuries were, the wound path, the point of entrance of the head wound, and the multiple entry wounds to the abdomen. Pearlman stated she wanted to use the photographs of the victim's extensive head injury to explain why she might be unable to answer questions about the path the bullet took through the brain.
The Waltons' Joe Conley Dead at 85
After the voir dire examination of Dr. Pearlman was completed, the defense objected to the admission of three of the five slides photographs one, two and four. The trial judge ruled that all five photographs were admissible, after weighing the probative value of each slide against any possible unfair prejudice to Ortiz:.
All right. Well, I'm satisfied that these five photographs are ones which the doctor has determined will be helpful to her in giving her testimony. I understand that, you know, she may not know every question that's going to be asked and in exactly what context, but I'm satisfied that these are the pictures that she believes are necessary to fully explain her testimony. As to the first three of the head, each of them are from a different angle, and I'm satisfied after listening to her testimony and looking at the photos, that all three in combination are probative and material to her explanation of the nature of the gun wound and the angle of the wound, et cetera.
I can understand that given the relatively massive nature of the wound, it may not be possible to state with exactitude the angle of the wound, but I'm satisfied that she can testify to that with the aid of these three pictures to the extent that the evidence allows. As to the final two, they do — they are different in that one shows the larger wound and the other shows a smaller wound, and I think they both have independent probative value. And I'm satisfied that the evidentiary value of each of the five slides outweighs any potential of unfair prejudice to the defendant.
I will instruct the jury that they are to consider these exhibits only for the purpose of assisting them in understanding the testimony of this witness, and for no other purpose. Prior to Dr. Pearlman's testimony before the jury, the trial judge instructed the jury that the sole purpose for admitting the autopsy slides into evidence was to assist the jury in understanding Dr. Pearlman's testimony. The trial judge added, "You may use the information only for understanding this witness' testimony and for no other purpose.
Dover Delaware, 2012
Pearlman used a laser pointer with the first three slides while describing the gunshot injury to Deborah Clay's head. Pearlman used the remaining two slides to explain the nature of the abdominal wound the victim suffered, and the thermal injury or singeing of victim's skin due to the fire. The State argues that the various photographs, videotape, and autopsy slides were probative of the victim's injuries and the circumstances of her shooting, and were relevant to rebut Ortiz's claim of an accidental shooting.
The State submits that its photographic exhibits were also probative of the fires that had been intentionally set in the victim's home, which were relevant to Ortiz's state of mind in covering up or destroying the evidence of his crime. In support of its arguments, the State notes that Ortiz told the police that the shooting was accidental. According to Ortiz, he fired in anger at Deborah through the wall thinking the gun was "on safe" then ran around to the bathroom, saw her holding her side and dropped the gun, discharging it a second time.
This Court has consistently held that photographs of a murder victim and the crime scene may be admitted into evidence, even if they are graphically gruesome, as long as they have probative value. In Casalvera v. State , we held that "[a] prosecutor is not required to minimize [a brutal murder] by selecting the least dramatic means of presenting his [or her] evidence.
In Trader v. State , this Court determined that two photographs taken at the hospital showing the extent of injuries suffered by the decedent, and two autopsy slides were not excessive in order to show the nature and extent of the decedent's wounds, and to allow the State to address the defendant's self-defense claim.
Casalvera v. Trader v. State , WL Del. In Ortiz's case, the record reflects that the trial judge was aware of the potential for jurors' passions to become inflamed from viewing the videographic and photographic evidence presented by the State. For example, before Ortiz could submit a proposed form of instruction, the trial judge presented the parties with a proposed limiting instruction concerning the videotape for their review.
IN RE: a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware Ronald G. POLIQUIN
That instruction was subsequently given to the jury. A trial judge has broad discretion in deciding to permit the introduction and display of photographs of murder victims. In Ortiz's case, the trial judge heard the arguments of the respective attorneys and watched the videotape of the crime scene twice, prior to ruling on its admissibility.
The trial judge admitted the autopsy slides only after voir dire of the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner and hearing argument from the respective attorneys. See, e. Although some of the State's photographic evidence that was introduced at Ortiz's trial may have been gruesome, we adhere to our prior holding that "a prosecutor is not required to minimize [a brutal murder] by selecting the least dramatic means of presenting his evidence. Moreover, before the videotape was shown to the jury and before the Chief Deputy Medical Examiner testified using the autopsy slides, the trial judge gave appropriate limiting instructions to the jury.
AUSTIN v. CITY OF EAST GR | beschstacenanec.ga () | pp | beschstacenanec.ga
Under all of these circumstances, we hold that the trial judge properly exercised his discretion in admitting the State's videotape, photographs of the victim and autopsy slides into evidence — individually and collectively — at Ortiz's trial. See Virdin v. On the second day of Ortiz's capital penalty hearing, Ron Drake, an institutional investigator with the Delaware Department of Corrections in Smyrna, testified on behalf of the State.
Drake described his investigation of a September 19, prison assault committed upon inmate Vincent Spicer, who was hospitalized for two days as a result of the attack.