|Recognizing Character: A New Perspective on Character Evidence|
|Barrett J. Anderson [View as PDF]|
121 Yale L.J. 1912 (2012).
Courts have historically regulated the use of character in trials because of its
potential to prejudice juries. In order to regulate this type of proof, courts must be able to
recognize what is and is not character evidence, but past attempts to define character in the law
of evidence have been unsatisfactory. This Note proposes a new framework to help courts
unravel this age-old mystery. By considering legal scholarship in conjunction with psychological
research and employing common tools of statutory interpretation, this Note contends that proof
must have two components for it to be regulated by the character scheme in the Federal Rules of
Evidence: propensity and morality. It then explains the elements of each component under the
Federal Rules regime, examines several evidentiary examples drawn from real cases to illustrate
how courts would apply the proposed framework, and concludes by discussing the broader
implications of this new perspective on character evidence.