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Exercise 19

Tutorial on the crimes of stalking and harassment for New Mexico judges

In a harassment case, the prosecutor calls the victim's doctor to testify about the patient's reported sleep problems. During discovery, defense counsel learned from the physician that the sleep problem was reported once and only in reference to the evening prior to the doctor's visit. The visit was a routine physical examination five months after the alleged harassment had ceased. The victim never directly or indirectly attributed the prior night's sleep problem to the harassment and never asked for or received any type of medication or treatment. The defendant argues the physician's testimony regarding one night of sleep problems lacks relevance and should not be allowed into evidence for the jury to consider. The prosecution responds that the testimony goes to the issue of the substantial emotional distress suffered by the victim due to the harassment.

How should the judge rule on the relevancy objection?

A. Sustain the objection and not allow the sleep problem testimony given the lack of evidence connecting it to the alleged harassment, rendering the evidence irrelevant to the harassment charge.
Answer A is correct! Under Rule 11-401, "relevant evidence" is that which makes the existence of any fact of consequence to the case more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. The prosecution's argument is that the sleep problem is relevant to the issue of the impact the harassment had on the victim. However, the problem was reported only once, in reference to the prior evening, some five months after the alleged harassment stopped. Additionally, the victim never connected the sleep problem to the harassment, and it was not serious enough to warrant treatment. Thus, the judge could reasonably conclude the evidence is not relevant.
B. Overrule the objection and allow the sleep problem testimony since it makes the existence of substantial emotional distress from the alleged harassment more probable and therefore the evidence is relevant.
Answer B is incorrect. Under Rule 11-401, "relevant evidence" is that which makes the existence of any fact of consequence to the case more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. The prosecution's argument is that the sleep problem is relevant to the issue of the impact the harassment had on the victim. However, the problem was reported only once, in reference to the prior evening, some five months after the alleged harassment stopped. Additionally, the victim never connected the sleep problem to the harassment and it was not serious enough to warrant treatment. Thus, the judge could reasonably conclude the evidence is not relevant.
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