Recently, appellate Judge Steigmann form the Fourth Appellate District Court bench slapped the entire Illinois criminal law bar for repeatedly making the same trial mistake.
Raise your hand if you know what trial mistake the judge was talking about.
Well here is exactly what the judge said:
Why do we keep screwing up Prior Inconsistent Statements at trial?
Although the statute (725 ILCS 5/115-10.1) is not the most artful thing, it’s not exactly confusing either.
Everything we need to know, well almost everything, is right in there. It’s all in black and white.
Why do we keep making this mistake?
Way back in Podcast Episode 085, I took a stab at answering this question.
I concluded then, and I still believe today, that the reason why we get into trouble with this rule of evidence is because we choke under the…
- pressure and
- time constraints
…of a trial.
I believe it is that simple.
The Statute Doesn’t Help
The statute is inartful enough that it is not there in our brain in any logical way. There is no simple formula up there to guide us and that we can draw from to help steer us towards a correct answer.
What we need is a simple formula we can store upstairs that we can depend on when we find ourselves in a trial and the issue of a prior inconsistent statement comes up.
Yes, what we need is a formula that is easy to memorize and easy to chisel in our brain. A fast and dependable mental aid is required to avoid making mistakes with this Illinois rule of evidence.
My First Attempt…
I already took a crack at this in Episode 085.
But I only got half way there in my first attempt. You can still download my first cheat sheet I created on this subject. Fair warning though:
This attempt is incomplete!!
This is not the whole formula. I was still gathering my thoughts and thinking about this concept back in Episode 085. The later cases, helped me piece it all together.
My first visual aid left out two very important steps.
In fact, the incompleteness of this first attempt precisely parallels the exact kind of actual mistakes we are making in a real trial setting.
Mentally, we see the presence or obasence of one important element and draw a conclusion based on that element alone without fully considering the complete formula.
Prior Inconsistent Statement 4 Step Formula
I just wanted to let you know I recently created the complete 4-step formula (ready for download) that can be followed during a trial to ensure you don’t make another prior inconsistent statement mistake again.
What we need to do is replace the statute in our brains with something much more memorable and easier to understand – something that can reliably guide us to the correct answer.
This Issues Comes Up All The Time
Prior inconsistent statements are not the kind of evidentiary thing that we only see every once in awhile.
No, prior inconsistent statements come up all the time, which is exactly why this particular trial mistake has become so frequent.