By Monica Han
ALAMEDA, CA— Judge Tina Thompson, in reviewing in limine motions here in Alameda County Superior Court, had some doubt as to some photos to be used by the prosecution for an ongoing trial about a 2019 Oakland homicide and carjacking.
In the end, she noted that the photos tentatively could stay in the jury trial, which reconvenes Tuesday, July 6.
Defendant Anthony L. Rhodes was one of the three East Bay men indicted. He was arrested in his San Francisco residential home after the homicide, and found with drugs and ammunition that appeared material to the bullets retrieved from the deceased victim.
Throughout the hearing, Judge Thompson considered the summary testimony drafted by public defenders along with the summary contained for the defendant, and read the transcripts identified on record to review her rulings on the motion in limine.
A proper motion in limine is an evidentiary motion that seeks a determination as to whether to exclude (or admit) evidence before it is offered at trial. It prevents trials from having to introduce matters that are irrelevant, inadmissible, or prejudicial.
Judge Thompson first addressed the prosecution’s motions in limine by going over records, and indicated what documents appeared to satisfy, that would make them subject to review and stipulation, as received by the court.
The prosecution also moved to utilize all autopsy photos and crime scene photos. Judge Thompson identified and listed the photos she reviewed, including the victim’s anatomical regions, blood stains, and gunshot residue and traces.
If the opposing counsel intends to object to the use of the photos, counsel will have to list their analyses to explain why the evidence is more prejudicial than probative, as well as the factual basis for support.
Evidence considered probative demonstrates and establishes truth in allegations, and evidence considered prejudicial denotes a tendency to influence the jury on an improper or immoral basis. Relative evidence can be excluded by court if the prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value.
Judge Thompson emphasized the importance of hearing from the defense. How it reviewed evidence will actually affect the defendant and in what way they appear to be admissible.
Going over the factual basis, Judge Thompson found the evidence to appear probative in terms of establishing the cause of death, the location of wounds, entrance and exits in scene, and the proximity of the tools and weaponry in use.
Still, Judge Thompson addressed her concern regarding the fact that some photos were more prejudicial than probative—one particular photo, for instance, concerning the left side of the victim’s face, she found duplicitous of another photo.
Another photo displayed the victim lying on the ground, face up, when, from what Judge Thompson knows, the victim was face down when the first respondents arrived.
In the end, “a factual basis is needed for the trial to properly continue,” Judge Tina Thompson stated.
The photos will be further dealt with this week, as they have already been reviewed and identified by the judge and perceived by the jury. Officers who were at the autopsy who identified the photos will testify with regard to the content.
“Counsel should be prepared to argue the probative value or lack thereof,” Judge Thompson said.