On May 5, 2016, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an order promulgating several amendments to the Minnesota Rules of Evidence. The Court notes in its order that the Rules as amended shall apply to all matters filed on or after the effective date, July 1, 2016.
The first rule change is to Rule 606(b), regarding inquiries into the validity of verdicts or indictments. The new rule language includes two additional bases on which a juror can testify to: (1) whether a juror gave false answers on voir dire that concealed prejudice or bias towards one of the parties; and (2) to correct an error made in entering the verdict on the verdict form. The additional language mirrors the federal rule.
The next rule change is to Rule 701. The new language prohibits lay witnesses from testifying about anything based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge. This rule attempts to keep parties from avoiding the pretrial disclosure requirements and foundational requirements by introducing expert testimony through a lay witness.
The final rule change is to Rule 804, which covers hearsay exceptions. The new language adds a new exception to the hearsay rule, and states that a statement offered against a party who wrongfully caused or acquiesced in wrongfully causing the declarant’s unavailability as a witness and did so intending that result. This rule codifies what the Minnesota Supreme Court had held in previous cases. A party should not be able to benefit from the hearsay rule if they had a part in causing the declarant to be unavailable to testify.