Journalist's Guide

liable. If the fact finder (the jury or the judge) believes the evidence is evenly balanced or “in equipoise” (50-50), then the verdict must be against the plaintiff, who did not meet their burden of proof. If the balance tilts even slightly, such as 51 percent in favor of liability, then the plaintiff has met their burden. In some cases, like fraud, the plaintiff must prove a case by clear and convincing evidence . This is a much tougher standard than a preponderance of the evidence though it is not as tough a standard as “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is the standard to convict a defendant on a criminal charge. For more information about civil procedure in a Circuit Court trial, consult Title 2 of the Maryland Rules. District Court civil procedure can be found in Title 3 of the Maryland Rules. A Word about Trial Objections Objections about procedure and evidence by attorneys and discussions about those objections can consume a significant amount of time during trial. Consequently, it may slow down and confuse the narrative quality of a witness’ testimony and the introduction of exhibits. Objections are necessary tools if an attorney (on behalf of the client) is to keep out certain evidence, have an error immediately corrected or if it is not corrected to preserve the issue for appeal. Sometimes attorneys may object for strategic purposes or to look in control or to shake-up the opposition. (This strategy can backfire if the jury believes the attorney is trying to hide something from them.) The Maryland Rules governing trial procedure require objections to evidence be made when the evidence is offered, as soon as possible afterward or the objection is waived. Normally, the grounds for the objection need not be stated, so reporters may not fully understand the basis of the objection. Here are some of the objections commonly encountered at trial: Objections to questions : Irrelevant; immaterial; privileged information; calls for a conclusion; hearsay; impermissibly leading; speculative; argumentative; beyond the scope of permissible questioning; calls for an impermissible opinion; compound question; calls for a conclusion; lack of foundation.

Objections to answers (which if granted are often followed by a Motion to Strike): Irrelevant; immaterial; privileged; conclusion; opinion; hearsay; unresponsive.

Objections to exhibits : Irrelevant; immaterial; no foundation or improper foundation (showing the exhibit is what it is purported to be), contains inadmissible material.


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