Based on what you already know about the law, what will happen to this evidence?

Here are some of the issues the trial judge would have had to decide. What would you have done, had you been in the judge’s shoes?
1. Should prosecutors be able to let the jury know that Laura was pregnant? Maryland law does not allow prosecution for the death of a fetus that was not yet “viable” (could not have lived on its own, outside the womb). Laura’s baby was only 4 months old, so the defendant could not legally be charged in connection with the baby’s death. The defense argued that information about the pregnancy was therefore legally irrelevant, and would only pander to the jurors’ emotions. The prosecution countered that the pregnancy provided the defendant with a motive to kill Laura, and should therefore be admitted. How do you rule? (The governing law says only that you should weigh the legal probative value of the evidence against the likelihood that jurors would misuse or be prejudiced by that evidence.)
2. Should prosecutors be able to let the jury know that Laura was shot in the back of the head, and may have been buried while still alive? Again, the defense argues that this sort of evidence is designed only to inflame the jury, given that her death is not disputed. The prosecution argues that the manner of death shows premeditation by the defendant: an element of first degree murder.
3. The prosecution wants to take the jury on a “field trip:” so to speak, to see the field and grave where the body was found. They argue that the isolated location, together with Laura’s phone call to her sister (the one about “standing out in a field”) shows premeditation by the defendant. The defendant objects to this first hand view of the scene: again arguing that it will be too emotional and prejudicial. Note that this trip, if allowed, would be a form of demonstrative evidence. Whether to allow it is entirely within the discretion of the trial judge. If you were that judge, what would you decide?
4. The defendant in this case hurt himself by talking with the police: giving incredible and contradictory statements about his role in disposing of Laura’s driver’s license and the plates on her car. The defense argued that these statements were made in violation of the defendant’s rights (contained in the well known Miranda warning) to remain silent and to have an attorney present with him during questioning. Assume that the trial judge rules in favor of the defendant on this point. Based on what you already know about the law, what will happen to this evidence?
5. Based on the admittedly limited information you have, how likely do you think a conviction would have been in this case? (If you were the prosecutor, would you have allowed the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offense – say second-degree murder – with a term of – oh – 40 years? Or are you sure you can win?

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