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The Evidence or the Event? On Judicial Proof and the Acceptability of Verdicts

Charles Nesson
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 98, No. 7 (May, 1985), pp. 1357-1392
DOI: 10.2307/1340951
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1340951
Page Count: 36
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The Evidence or the Event? On Judicial Proof and the Acceptability of Verdicts
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Abstract

Commentators have traditionally viewed rules concerning judicial proof as animated primarily by the search for truth. In this Article, Professor Nesson argues that the need to promote public acceptance of verdicts can better explain many evidentiary rules and other aspects of the trial process. Central to the judicial function, he contends, is the projection of substantive legal rules, and the accompanying behavioral messages, that underlie verdicts. In order to assimilate such messages and accept verdicts as the basis for the imposition of legal sanctions, the public must understand verdicts as statements about litigated events and not about evidence presented at trial. Professor Nesson argues that the rules governing the conduct of judge and jury, and a variety of evidentiary and procedural rules - ranging from the hearsay rules to the treatment of statistical evidence - help to project substantive legal rules and behavioral messages by facilitating public acceptance of verdicts as statements about events.

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