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I have been watching a series of videos of a criminal trial in the USA.

I have noticed that exhibits for the defence are labelled with four consecutive letters but often (if not always) these letters are repetitive, e.g. JJJJ and KKKK. I'm on day 5 and have only just realised this so I haven't gone back to watch all the previous videos again in order to check. I'm sure about JJJJ and KKKK.

Here's an example:

Defence lawyer: I'm going to show you what's been marked as defendant's exhibit KKKK.

Video: Skylar Richardson Trial Day 5 Witness: Dr John White - Gynecologist Part 2

Question

Why would the labelling have repetition? For example, why might it not be KAAA? Or simply single letters, J, K, L, etc?

At whose discretion/direction are the numbers allocated? The judge's, the counsels? Is there a standard or does each trial 'invent' its own standard for this?

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Different courts have different practices, but I believe the general practice is for plaintiffs to use exhibit numbers, and for defendants to use exhibit letters. As with most procedural questions, the final decision belongs to the judge.

The repetition in letters comes in when you get to the end of the alphabet. After you've used A-Z, you go to AA, BB, CC ... ZZ, then AAA, BBB, CCC, and so on.

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  • I see - clearly lawyers aren't mathematicians (with notable exceptions). Does the repetition also apply to numbers, i.e. 1 - 9, 11 - 99, 111 - 999, etc. or do they use ordinary, everyday numbering? Aug 27 '20 at 18:47
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    No, numbers just go normally from 1 to ∞.
    – bdb484
    Aug 27 '20 at 19:06
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    In the same way that computer scientists flunked elementary math because they used two-digit designations for years. The exhibit-numbering conventions just came from a time when trials were not so complex that you were ever likely to need that many exhibits.
    – bdb484
    Aug 27 '20 at 19:59
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    @MichaelHardy The problem with that system you start spelling words like AN, AS and AT that might cause confusion.
    – Ross Ridge
    Aug 27 '20 at 20:43
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    @MichaelHardy The horse is dead. Stop beating it.
    – bdb484
    Aug 29 '20 at 3:57

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