The proper introduction of an exhibit into evidence is a fundamental aspect of criminal trial practice.
Counsel first asks the court to mark the item for the purpose of identification. It is important to note that marking an item for identification does not make it part of the admissible record, only part of the broader record of the proceeding.
Counsel then shows the item to the opposing party and the trial judge. For documents or photographs, a reference copy should be provided to both.
Counsel then places the item before the witness. After counsel elicits the testimony needed to lay a proper evidentiary foundation, counsel will request that the item be entered into evidence.
After considering any objections from opposing counsel, the trial judge rules on the admissibility of the item.
If the judge determines that the item is admissible, it becomes a numbered exhibit and will be considered during the decision-making process. Counsel should then highlight the exhibit’s significance through subsequent witness testimony.
If the judge refuses to admit an item that the court previously marked for identification, the item is retained by the clerk and remains part of the record for review in the event of an appeal.
· Counsel should keep a running log of the exhibits tendered for ease of reference during witness examination.
· Where a party has a significant number of exhibits, counsel may ask the judge at a pre-trial conference for permission to have the items pre-marked for identification in advance of the trial.
· The court maintains custody over the exhibits. Counsel must ensure that the exhibit is returned to the court clerk at the conclusion of a witness examination.