Summary of U.S. v. Yahweh Ben Yahweh (1992) [p. 51]
Facts: The charges were against 16 defendants for 14 murders by means such as beheading, stabbing, occasionally by pistol shots, plus the severing of body parts such as ears and heads. Further, the defendants were charged with arson. Allegely the defendants lite victims houses on fire and then proceeded to keep them in their houses while the houses burned by stabbing them if they tried to escape.
Procedural History: The Fed Government sought to introduce evidence to reinforce the testimony of surviving victims and the coroner with photographs of the victims and the crime scenes. The defendants argued that the photos were not relevant under FRE 401 and prejudicial under 403.
Issue: Whether gruesome pictures of a murder are irrelevant and prejudicial under the Federal Rules of Evidence?
Analysis: The court states that that photos the government sought to introduce did reinforce the testimony of the government’s witnesses. Further, these photos, although extremely gruesome, were the depiction of the actual crime. Although these photos of decapitation, removal of body parts, stabbing, etc are inherently offensive, they are not flagrant or deliberately placed to prejudice the defendants. Therefore the defendant’s objections to such evidence are overruled.