In studying for finals, I thought it would be fun to watch legal films to see whether I understood the objections during the courtroom scenes. I watched Bananas (1971). This is a fun film by Woody Allen that parodies law and government by using exaggerated representations of politics, the media, and the judicial system. The film is on Netflix, but here is a clip from the courtroom scene where Woody Allen’s character, Mellish, is on trial for treason after participating in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations to impress a woman.
1) The prosecutor calls an officer to the stand in their case in chief who discusses Mellish’s criminal record. Mellish should have motioned to strike the officer’s statement, “he has a record; he was always being picked up at one demonstration or another,” under FRE 404(b). “He’s a bad apple – a commie,” should have been stricken pursuant to FRE 404(a).
2) The second witness introduces a recording of one of Mellish’s phone calls. The witness is asked whether, in his opinion, Mellish is a threat. It looks like the only issue here is FRE 404(a). The prosecutor cannot introduce evidence of Mellish’s character unless or until Mellish opens the door by offering evidence of his pertinent traits under FRE 404(a)(2)(A) mercy rule (there were no victims for FRE 404(a)(2)(B) to apply). However, if Mellish had opened the door prior to this scene, the evidence would be admissible. The witness offers an opinion in accordance with FRE 405(a), and the recording of Mellish’s call is not hearsay. The call is introduced because it is relevant to show the Federal government tapped Mellish’s phone, as the witness stated in laying the foundation. Thus, the audio clip is not being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted because the clip has independent logical relevance. To prove the Federal government tapped his phone, it does not matter what is said on the call. All that matters is that the call was from Mellish’s phone.
There are more issues, and my analysis is not complete because there are two sides to every piece of evidence. You should watch the clip and look for more, or check out this list of other great legal films! Happy studying!