I am currently watching the Depp/Heard trial, and there seems to be a lot of stuff that cannot be shown, or said, and a lot of people i would expect to make a statement are absent. My guess is that there are rulings in place that preclude certain witnesses from being called, certain evidence from being shown, and certain topics from being broached - but how, and why? And are those constraints known to the jury? For instance, there was a last minute witness that somehow offered herself up to testify, a very crucial character witness, that i would have thought the plaintiff would spare no expense in finding. There was a photo expert that was somehow prevented from talking about colors, there is a lot of confusion about the existence or non-existence of a wall mounted phone, but both parties have refrained from showing images of the wall that the phone should have hung on - although the existence of such photos is a near certainty, etc.

So my questions: How are such no-show-no-tell boundaries established, does the jury get to know them, and is this also in the public record somehow?


1 Answer 1


How are such no-show-no-tell boundaries established

They largely stem from the rules of evidence which are complicated, vary from state to state and knowing which is a big part of what litigation attorneys are paid for.

Parties to litigation become aware of all the evidence/topics that their counterparts wish to broach in the courtroom well in advance — during discovery. They will usually disagree whether some bits and pieces can be presented to the jury. In this case the court will hold admissibility hearings — again, well in advance before the trial.

Despite all the preparations, some of these disagreements arise during the trial, and then they are resolved in place by way of voiced objections. The attorneys and the judge talk about them using professional jargon of the rules of evidence — having themselves seen all the evidence in advance.

does the jury get to know them

No, the jury doesn't need to follow the professional talk. In fact, they should hear as little as possible of it — which is the reason why admissibility disagreements are resolved in advance as much as possible. If serious issues arise during the trial, the judge will ask the attorneys to speak to them in chambers — away from the jury. Or they will ask the jury to take a break while the professionals talk.

The jury just needs to listen to the evidence that is allowed in, and disregard any evidence the judge say they have to.

is this also in the public record somehow?

It is in the court record. It may be accessible to the public if the court allows. If someone wishes to see the record they need to apply to the court, provide reasons and a judge will decide if anything can be released.

  • Decent summary answer to a very broad question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 4:08
  • 1
    @ohwilleke I believe a summary is what the OP wanted to see, not a monograph :D
    – Greendrake
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 8:04
  • There are boatloads of freedom of press issues that media organisations often successfully litigate to gain access to. If you do a civil case you should expect it to go public
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 18:38

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