Court amends evidence code

first_img Court amends evidence code August 1, 2002 Regular News Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code have been approved by the Supreme Court, including a controversial change affecting the trials involving child molestation charges that was approved by a 4-3 margin.The Bar’s Code and Rules of Evidence Committee, with a concurrence from the Bar Board of Governors, had recommended against a legislatively-enacted change that would allow evidence of past molestation crimes to be introduced in a new trial when that information is deemed “relevant.”The committee, unlike other rules panels, usually performs a ministerial function of conforming court evidence procedures with state evidence laws since the legislature has the authority to create and amend the evidence code.But in this case, a committee majority said the change to F.S. §90.404(2), conflicted with other state laws.The court published all of the recommendations made by the committee, and received only two comments on the molestation issue and heard oral arguments on the differences.The court accepted all of the recommended changes endorsed by the committee, but rejected the advice to turn down the molestation changes, which were included in Chapter 2001-121, Section 1.But the court noted, “In the absence of a true ‘case and controversy,’ we express no opinion on the substance of the amendments or on the challenges to Chapter 2001-121, Section 1, that were raised in these proceedings.”Justices Major Harding, Charles Wells, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince concurred in the per curiam opinion. Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead, Leander Shaw, and Barbara Pariente concurred in all of the changes but those affecting the molestation issue.“The majority of the [code] committee recommended that the court not adopt the amendment. . . based upon the inherent conflicts between the new legislation and sections 90.104(2) (the court should prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury), 90.404(1) (character evidence is inadmissible to prove a person acted in conformity with that character trait), and 90.404(2)(a) (similar fact evidence is inadmissible when relevant only to prove bad character or propensity),” Pariente wrote for the dissenters.She also said the change conflicts with the Williams’ rule codified in F.S. §90.404(2)(a), and with Heuring v. State, 513 So. 2d 122 (Fla. 1987), and Saffor v. State 660 So. 2d 668 (Fla. 1995). Further, the majority failed to say to what extent the new rule is only procedural and “adopting this amendment without clarifying what portions are procedural and what portions are substantive will not assist either the trial courts or the litigants,” Pariente wrote. She said the rule should not be adopted until those questions are clarified by an actual case.Other changes, all approved unanimously, include conforming the code to:• F.S. 90.502, which provides that a discussion or activity that is not a meeting under F.S. §286.011 does not waive the attorney client privilege, nor does the provision constitute an exception to F.S. §§119.07 or 286.11.• F.S. §90.612 which says that judges should take special care to protect a witness under the age of 14 from questions that cannot reasonably be construed by a person of that age.• F.S. §90.4026 which specifies that statements, writings, or benevolent gestures “expressing sympathy or a general sense of benevolence” relating to the injury, pain, or death of a person due to an accident are not admissible as evidence in a civil action, but that a statement of fault accompanying such expressions is admissible.The court acted July 11 in In Re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, case no. SC02-240.center_img Court amends evidence codelast_img read more