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Court Determines Digital Photographs Were Reviewable by a Jury Even When Not Admitted into Evidence

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case discussing whether the trial court properly reversed a defendant’s conviction after the jury was allowed to view digital pictures that had only been admitted into evidence as hard-copies. Ultimately, the court concluded that the digital images were “duplicates” of the original hard-copy photographs, and that showing the digital images to the jury was permissible.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, a witness saw a man and a woman jumping over a fence and entering a home. A few minutes later, the witness saw the same couple leaving the home carrying a black bag. The witness took several pictures of the couple on her cell phone.

Police later determined that jewelry and several guns were missing from the property. The defendant was arrested and charged with several crimes, including burglary and possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor.

At trial, the prosecution presented several of the photographs taken by the witness. The images were shown on a projection screen, and then hard-copies of the photos were admitted into evidence. The digital images that were blown up on the projection screen were not admitted into evidence.

During the jury’s deliberations, the jury requested to see the digital images that were presented at trial. The prosecution agreed that the jury should be permitted to look at the images, but the defendant objected on the basis that the digital images were not admitted into evidence. The court allowed the jury to view the images one-at-a-time without an attorney from either side present. The jury then convicted the defendant.

The defendant filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that by considering extrinsic evidence the jurors committed misconduct. The trial judge granted the motion, explaining “I don’t think it was appropriate, in retrospect, allowing the jurors to see the digital photos even though they had seen them throughout the trial, given that a digital format had not been admitted.” The prosecution appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s request for a new trial. The court explained that the situation was not an issue of juror misconduct. The court explained that the juror misconduct based on the consideration of extrinsic evidence is based on a claim that the juror received evidence from an outside source, such as the news or social media. Here, the court held that the digital copies of the photographs were just duplicates of the originals.

Importantly, the court mentioned that the defendant did not argue that the digital images showed anything additional or different. Thus, the court’s decision was based merely on the fact that one set of images was in hard-copy and the other digital. The case may have come out differently had the digital photographs been clearer, or shown something that could not be seen in the hard-copies.

Have You Been Charged with an Arizona Crime?

If you or a loved one has recently been charged with a crime in Arizona, you should contact Attorney James E. Novak to discuss your case. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling a wide variety of complex criminal matters, including Arizona gun crimes, property crimes, and drug crimes. To learn how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

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Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Challenge to Search Warrant, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, September 7, 2018

Arizona Court Distinguishes Between Diminished Capacity and Justification Defenses, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, September 19, 2018

The Crimes of Assault and Aggravated Assault in Arizona, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, October 10, 2018