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Name: Moses v. Payne
Case #: 07-35468
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/15/2008
Summary

The trial court did not err by precluding a defense expert witness from testifying or by excluding an autopsy photo of the victim. Petitioner was convicted of the second-degree murder of his wife. Petitioner had claimed at trial that his wife had shot herself in the head. At trial the defense introduced four of the wife’s medical providers to testify about her mental heath and substance abuse. The defense also sought to introduce the testimony of another doctor, an expert on depression. Although the expert could not testify that the death was a suicide, he was going to testify that the victim fell into a category of people with an extreme number of significant risk factors for suicide. But, the court excluded the testimony, finding it was within the common knowledge of the jury, cumulative, and that it would confuse the issues. The court also excluded a naked autopsy photo the victim which showed she was emaciated and which supported the defense claim she suffered from an eating disorder. Here too, the court found the evidence was cumulative and more prejudicial than probative since other photos were being admitted and other witnesses were testifying to her weight loss. Applying the deferential AEDPA standards, the appellate court rejected petitioner’s habeas arguments that the evidentiary rulings deprived him of the constitutional right to present a defense. It examined U.S. Supreme Court precedent and noted that exclusion of this kind had not been squarely addressed by the high court, but that the Court had held the right to present a defense is not unlimited, but subject to the reasonable restrictions, such as, in this case, weighing probative value versus prejudice.