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People v. Enskat

Brief Fact Summary. The defendant, Enskat (the “defendant”), was convicted of exhibiting an obscene motion picture depicting graphic sex acts. Rather than seize the film itself, arresting officers entered the theater and took photos of the film.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A motion picture is “a writing” for purposes of the best evidence rule.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Only the Legislature and not the courts may make conduct criminal.

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Facts. The defendant was convicted of exhibiting an obscene motion picture depicting graphic sex acts. The motion picture involved was not seized under a warrant, or otherwise offered into evidence by the prosecution. Rather than seize the film itself, the arresting officers entered the theater and took photos of portions of the film.

Issue. Is a motion picture “a writing” for purposes of the best evidence rule?

Held. Yes. The secondary evidence (photographs of the film) was improperly admitted, and as it was the only evidence offered, had to be prejudicial.

Discussion. The contents of the material must be considered in an obscenity case. As such, the best evidence rule will apply if a film is “a writing” under the rules of evidence. It is better for the trier of fact to see a movie than to have it described. The same policy considerations upholding the rule for written documents apply to movies.


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