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Article Title

Evidence Without Rules

Abstract

Much of what we tell ourselves about the Rules of Evidence—that they serve as an all-seeing gatekeeper, checking evidence for relevance and trustworthiness, screening it for unfair prejudice—is simply wrong. In courtrooms every day, fact finders rely on “evidence”—for example, a style of dress, the presence of family members in the gallery, and of course race—that rarely passes as evidence in the formal sense, and thus breezes past evidentiary gatekeepers unseen and unchecked. This Article calls much needed attention to this other evidence and demonstrates that such unregulated evidence matters. Jurors use this other evidence to decide whether to find for a plaintiff or defendant, whether a defendant should go free or be deprived of liberty, even whether a defendant is deserving of life or death. More broadly, the role of other evidence belies what we tell ourselves about the way justice works, that it is based on the “rule of law.” The truth is less comforting. The determination of outcomes, notwithstanding the Rules of Evidence, is often ruleless. To address this state of affairs, this Article first offers a modest proposal—a simple jury instruction and directive. It then offers a solution that is anything but modest—a radical rethinking of the Rules of Evidence.

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