Are Photos of a Crime Scene Admissible In Texas ?
Rule 401 defines "relevant evidence" as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." TEX. R. EVID. 401.
Photographs are generally admissible if verbal testimony as to their imagery is admissible, with the determination of admissibility resting within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Long v. State, 823 S.W.2d 259, 271-72 n.18 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991).
Moreover, testimony, and thus photographs, of the crime scene aid the jury in determining the manner and means of the death of the victim, the force used, and occasionally the identity of the perpetrator. Williams v. State, 958 S.W.2d 186, 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997).
Rule 403, however, restricts the admissibility of such evidence by providing, in pertinent part, that "although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice . . . ." Rule at 403.
Nevertheless, Rule 403 carries a presumption that relevant evidence will be more probative than prejudicial. Montgomery v. State, 810 S.W.2d 372, 389 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990) (op. on reh'g).
Factors a court may consider in probative versus prejudicial determination of relevant evidence include: the number of exhibits offered, their gruesomeness, their detail, their size, whether they are black and white or color, whether they are close-up, and whether the body depicted is naked or clothed. Williams, 958 S.W.2d at 196. Rule 403 of the rules of evidence requires that for a photograph to be admissible, it must have some probative value which must not "'be substantially outweighed by its inflammatory nature.'" Rojas v. State, 986 S.W.2d 241, 249 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998) (quoting Long v. State, 823 S.W.2d 259, 272 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1224, 120 L. Ed. 2d 910, 112 S. Ct. 3042 (1992)).
When making this determination, relevant factors to consider include: the number of exhibits offered, their gruesomeness, their detail, their size, whether they are black and white or color, whether they are close-up shots, whether the body is naked or clothed, the availability of other means of proof, and other circumstances unique to the individual case. Id.
It is within the sound discretion of the trial judge whether to admit these photographs over an objection. Id. Furthermore, unless autopsy photos show the victim mutilated because of the autopsy itself, these photos are generally admissible. Id.