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Authentication & Identification, § 909.01: Chain of Custody

State v. Walter William McCoy, 2007 WI App 15
For McCoy: Andrea Taylor Cornwall

Issue/Holding:

¶18   … We start by acknowledging that the chain of evidence in this case is not perfect. There are substantial time gaps as pointed out by McCoy. Nonetheless, the chain of custody evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s conclusion that it was admissible. The standard for the admission of exhibits into evidence is that there must be a showing that the physical exhibit being offered is in substantially the same condition as when the crime was committed.”  Moore, 425 F.3d at 1071 (citation omitted). This standard was satisfied here. Several witnesses testified that the physical evidence was what it purported to be and Nurse Kelly positively identified it as the same evidence she had packaged on the date of the crime.¶19   Provided that standard is satisfied, gaps in the chain of evidence “go to the weight of the evidence rather than its admissibility.” Id. (citation omitted).

¶20   Thus, we conclude that the witnesses who testified for the State provided sufficient foundation and authentication to convince this court that the evidence in question “is what its proponent claims” it is. See WIS. STAT. § 909.01. The chain of custody was sufficient to allow its admissibility. The markings and seals personally placed on the evidence by all four of the witnesses who handled the evidence allowed them to each positively identify the evidence and independently recall what they did with the evidence. The absence of any additional markings or initials indicates that no one else handled this evidence between October 1995 and the trial. Moreover, the testimony from these four witnesses provided the jury, acting reasonably, with a sufficient basis to conclude that the tampon fragments introduced into evidence at trial were the same, and in substantially the same condition, as the fragments retrieved in October 1995 from the victim. Accordingly, the trial court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in admitting this evidence. Any basis for challenging the time gaps in the chain of custody was relevant to the weight of the evidence––not its admissibility.

 

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