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Federal Rule of Evidence 405 establishes the permissible methods of proving character: '(a) Reputation or opinion. In all cases in which evidence of character or a trait of character of a person is admissible, proof may be made by testimony as to reputation or by testimony in the form of an opinion. On cross-examination, inquiry is allowable into relevant specific instances of conduct. (b) Specific instances of conduct. In cases in which character or a trait of character of a person is an essential element of a charge, claim, or defense, proof may also be made of specific instances of his conduct.'


Testimony concerning specific instances of conduct is the most convincing, of course, but it also 'possesses the greatest capacity to arouse prejudice, to confuse, to surprise and to consume time.' Fed. R. Evid. 405 advisory committee note. Rule 405 therefore concludes that such evidence may be used only when character is in issue 'in the strict sense.' Id.


When character is used circumstantially, only reputation and opinion are acceptable forms of proof. Fed. R. Evid. 405 advisory committee note. Character is 'in issue' only when the existence of the character trait itself will affect the ...

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