WHAT, EXACTLY, IS EVIDENCE?
With the November 3, 2020 general election in our rearview mirror, the media these days seems rife with the status of lawsuits and questions surrounding the existence of evidence of voter fraud. I’ve seen the term “evidence” thrown around many times in the political media arena, and frankly it’s a concept that’s deeply misunderstood by the public, at least as far as what it actually constitutes in the legal arena.
Under the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, evidence can only be submitted if it’s relevant, and relevant evidence is defined 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.” In summary, if a piece of information makes a key factual assertion more or less likely to be true, then it’s relevant to the case.
Contrary to popular belief in the media and political discourse, statements by witnesses actually do count as evidence! In fact, in a court of law statements by witnesses are typically single most common form of evidence utilized. Even most documentary evidence--including emails and letters--often requires witness statements to qualify, authenticate, or provide the right context.
The caveat to this is that evidence by witness statement must be put to a heightened standard in order to be admitted. First, the statement must be sworn as truth. Second, except in certain circumstances, the statement must NOT constitute hearsay. Hearsay rules and the exceptions to them are complicated, but they basically provide that statements made out of court by witnesses who are not on the stand cannot be utilized to prove what's asserted in those statements.
Candidly made written statements and recorded statements often comprise some of the most powerful evidence, because people are inherently suspicious of oral statements or affidavits prepared for litigation purposes, even when delivered under oath. A statement in writing, made in earnest prior to litigation, can often have a far more powerful effect.
In the context of the 2020 election, statements by witnesses and documents will be thoroughly scrutinized by the Judges overseeing the lawsuits filed by the Trump administration. Such evidence may even include sworn statements by witnesses to the ballot counting processes and the workings of voting machines. We should have every confidence that our Judges will properly evaluate the evidence presented to them in Court, and that these Judges will render fair and duly-considered results when assessing evidence in the lawsuits filed.
In the meantime, I urge caution over jumping to conclusions about the evidence submitted. These suits will be filled with legal nuances that our headline-prone social media world is simply incapable of conveying with sufficient accuracy.
In the meantime, if you have a potential legal dispute on your hands and want a legal expert to evaluate the evidence pertaining to that matter, give Asheville Legal a call today!