In child pornography prosecution, Fifth Circuit agrees that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting two child pornography exhibits even though the defendant had offered to stipulate that the materials were child pornography, in United States v. Blank, 701 F.3d 1084 (5th Cir. Dec. 4, 2012) (per curiam) (No. 11-41211)
To what extent can a party avoid the admission of prejudicial evidence by offering to stipulate to the evidence? This issue arose in a recent child pornography prosecution.
In the case, the defendant was prosecuted for transporting and possession child pornography. He offered to stipulate that two exhibits were child pornography. The trial court declined the offer and admitted the exhibits. Following his conviction, he challenged the refusal to accept the stipulation.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the admission of the evidence. First, the circuit noted that there were unique aspects about the evidence which the jury was entitled to consider. The circuit relied on prior precedent in which it had noted that “child pornography is graphic evidence that has force beyond simple linear schemes of reasoning. It comes together with the remaining evidence to form a narrative to gain momentum to support jurors’ inferences regarding the defendant’s guilt.” Blank, 701 F.3d at 1092 (quoting United States v. Caldwell, 586 F.3d 338 (5th Cir. 2009)). Consequently, as the Supreme Court recognized, “the prosecution is entitled to prove its case free from any defendant’s option to stipulate the evidence away . . . .” Blank, 701 F.3d at 1092 (quoting Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 189 (1997)).
While there may be advantanges to the parties to stipulate to particular evidence, where the parties are unable to reach a stipulation, the opposing party may not foreclose the admission of the evidence. This result may follow where unique features about the evidence may be highlighted.
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