1. United States v. Abel, (1984); pg. 582, briefed 3/17/96
Prepared by Roger Martin (http://people.qualcomm.com/rmartin/)

2. Facts: Abel and two others were arrested for bank robbery. One of his alleged cohorts, Ehle, pled guilty and promised to testify against Abel in return for a light sentence.

3. Procedural Posture: At trial, Abel produced a witness, Mills, that testified that Ehle had told him that he was going to falsely accuse and frame Abel. The trial court allowed the prosecution to put Ehle back on the stand to testify that Mills, Ehle and Abel were all part of the same secret prison gang whose purpose it was to lie for eachother. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the testimony unduly prejudiced the defendant because mere membership in an illegal organization does not have any probative value with regard to veracity.

4. Issue: Whether the admission of evidence tending to show bias on the part of a witness is inadmissible if it also tends to show that the defendant was lying.

5. Holding: No.

6. Reasoning: The membership of Mills in the prison gang was sufficiently probative of Mills’ possible bias towards Abel to warrant its admission, and was within the discretion of the trial court. Even though the rules do not expressly refer to the admissibility of extrnsic evidence to show bias, this evidence is otherwise covered by 402’s allowance of “relevant” evidence. Proof of bias is relevant, and thus admissible. Even though the evidence also tended to show that the defendant and his witness were part of an illegal organization, and thus probably lying on the stand, it is still admissible for the purpose of showing bias. Also, even though membership is not sufficient to convict, it is sufficiently probative to be relevant. The trial court took sufficient steps to limit its prejudicial value.


Problem 8-A: General Motors hires an expert witness to testify in a product liability suit. On direct, the defense brings out the fact that they are paying him $400 per day. On cross, the plaintiff wishes to go into further detail about the total of payments, and how much the expert witness relies on these payments for his living.

Issue: Whether the further inquiry into the total of payments is admissible.

Answer: Yes. It is probative on the issue of bias. It gives the jury an idea of the significance of the payments.