By Lauren D. Emery

In U.S. v. Warrick, an unpublished criminal opinion released February 6, 2015 the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling regarding the admissibility of evidence under Rule 403.

Defendant Alleges Prejudice After Judge Admits Pornographic Video Clips

Marcus Warrick was sentenced to 180 months in prison followed by supervised release for life after being convicted of six counts of receiving child pornography.  Warrick argues that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the State to show clips from seven different pornographic videos found on his home computer, despite his offer to “stipulate that the videos met the definition of child pornography.”

Highly Deferential Review for District Court’s Decisions on Evidence Admissibility

Federal Rule of Evidence 403 states that relevant evidence should be excluded only when “substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.”  In the context of Rule 403, prejudice refers to evidence which would tend to cause a trier of fact to make its decision based on an improper basis.  The Fourth Circuit confirmed that it applies a “highly deferential standard of review” in such matters and that “a trial court’s decision to admit evidence over a Rule 403 objection will not be overturned except under the most extraordinary circumstances, where that discretion has been plainly abused.”

Showing Clips of Pornography Found on Defendant’s Computer Does Not Violate Rule 403

In its review of the record, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the video tapes found on Mr. Warrick’s computer.