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Just How Confidential IS Mike Brown’s Confidential Juvenile Record?

Just How Confidential IS Mike Brown’s Confidential Juvenile Record?

Juvenile record confidentiality involves complex interplay of Constitutional law, MO statute, public policy, and politics

A self-described “avid reader” of Legal Insurrection has asked us to address the issue of the confidentiality of Mike Brown’s juvenile criminal record (if any), and whether these are likely to be released to the press and public.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor Legal Insurrection knows with certainty whether Mike Brown even has a juvenile criminal record, nor (if such exists) what offenses might have been charged or adjudicated in such a record.  It appears that early internet claims that Brown’s juvenile record contained a serious felony were in error. The collected information released by various government actors (or refused to be discussed, as by Brown family lawyers) can be interpreted to suggest that a juvenile record exists, but that it does not contain any serious felonies.  For purposes of the following discussion I will assume this to be the case. Make no mistake, however: our knowledge of any actual juvenile record of Mike Brown is merely speculative.

With that out of the way, let’s consider the laws, legal principles, and public policy that govern the confidentiality of such juvenile records in Missouri.

US Supreme Court: First Amendment, History Require Trials Be Public

In general, trials taking place in court rooms are public events.  In particular, the US Supreme Court has ruled that absent some compelling counter interest the press cannot be denied access to a criminal trial. See Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 (US Supreme Court 1980).  There the Court wrote:

The right to attend criminal trials is implicit in the guarantees of the First Amendment: without the freedom to attend such trials, which people have exercised for centuries, important aspects of freedom of speech and of the press could be eviscerated.

(Note that Richmond is a plurality decision with much exchange between the Justices; it also contains a far-reaching review of fundamental historical underpinnings of publicly conducted trials. For these reasons alone students of legal history generally and Supreme Court history in particular may find the opinion worth a read.)

Naturally, if the trial itself–including all testimony and the final adjudication–is normally required to be public, there could be no sense in keeping confidential the normal records of that trial.

The key, of course, is in the phrase “normally required to be public.”  The public nature of a criminal trial is not absolute, but rather may be constrained by a compelling counter interest.

Perhaps the most common and broadly accepted constraint of this type is the confidentiality of criminal proceedings involving juveniles.  Most if not all states require that juvenile criminal records be kept confidential under most circumstances, and Missouri is no exception.

Missouri §211.321: Juvenile court records, confidentiality, exceptions

The key Missouri statute requiring confidentiality for juvenile criminal records is §211.321. “Juvenile court records, confidentiality, exceptions–records of peace officers, exceptions, release of certain information to victim” (such confidentiality is also mentioned in passing in other statutes within that chapter of MO law).

In relevant part §211.321 provides that:

Records of juvenile court proceedings as well as all information obtained and social records prepared in the discharge of official duty for the court shall not be open to inspection or their contents disclosed . . .


[T]he records of the juvenile court as well as all information obtained and social records prepared in the discharge of official duty for the court shall be kept confidential . . .

Seems simple enough. Of course, this being the law there are numerous exceptions to this otherwise blanket requirement of confidentiality. Indeed, the statute title itself explicitly mentions “exceptions.”

Exceptions to Missouri Confidentiality of Juvenile Records

One is that the records may revealed “by order of the court to persons having a legitimate interest therein.”  This category of “persons” is generally limited to those who have a duty to care for or provide guardian-like oversight of the juvenile, including parents, involved social workers, as well as law enforcement authorities.  Neither the general public nor press fall within this category, however.

Another exception is for certain particularly heinous crimes that might be committed by a juvenile, specifically that that “would be a class A felony under the criminal code of Missouri, or capital murder, first degree murder, or second degree murder.”

The statute also carves out certain specific of criminal offenses that may be considered for certain limited purposes, such as in sentencing, that would otherwise have remained confidential.  These offenses consist of: “rape, sodomy, murder, kidnapping, robbery, arson, burglary or any acts involving the rendering or threat of serious bodily harm.”

The greatest exception to confidentiality however, is found in §211.321.2(2):

After a child has been adjudicated delinquent . . . for an offense which would be a felony if committed by an adult, the records of the dispositional hearing and proceedings related thereto shall be open to the public to the same extent that records of criminal proceedings are open to the public.

So, commit an adult-level felony as a juvenile, and those records fall outside of the usual protections afforded to juvenile criminal records.  It is surely this section that underlies recent denials by a juvenile court official that Brown was ever convicted of a serious felony “such as first-degree murder or second-degree murder.”   This disclosure was made at a hearing involving motions by news organizations for the release of Brown’s juvenile record.

Rationale for Juvenile Confidentiality Would Seem to End at Death

All of that US Constitutional and Missouri statutory law, however, would seem to be beside the point, given perhaps the key defining characteristic of this particular case:  the fact that Brown is deceased.

To understand why we must look at the fundamental fundamental principles and rationales that underly the public policy of confidentiality of juvenile records in the first place. After all, criminal proceedings and records are not generally confidential–there must be something different about such matters in a juvenile setting to warrant this confidentiality.

Indeed, there are several rationales behind the public policy of juvenile record confidentiality, all centered on the notion that confidentiality of such records is in the best interests of the juvenile, and a lack of confidentiality would likely hamper the ability of the juvenile to “turn their life around,” as the cliche has it.

All of these rationales, however, are personal to the juvenile.  And as such, they pass away when the juvenile passes away.  Upon death, the juvenile has no further prospects for “turning their life around,” and thus a lack of confidentiality cannot harm such prospects.  The very rationale for confidentiality disappears entirely.

What little rationale may exist for maintaining confidentiality of a deceased juvenile’s criminal record–embarrassment to the juvenile’s family?–must surely be overcome by the Constitutional rights of the public and the press to access criminal proceedings and records, as recognized in Richmond and elsewhere.

This would seem to be particularly the case where some still living individual–in this case, Officer Darren Wilson–faces potential criminal liability based on an engagement with the juvenile for which a juvenile record might be relevant.

If All Else Fails, Find a Victim

If all else fails, however, an enterprising journalist might still be able to access Brown’s juvenile criminal records (if any) by a “backdoor” approach provided for by Missouri statute.

Specifically, §211.321.6 provides that:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the release of general information regarding the informal adjustment or formal adjudication of the disposition of a child’s case to a victim or a member of the immediate family of a victim of any offense committed by the child. Such general information shall not be specific as to location and duration of treatment or detention or as to any terms of supervision.

So if Brown had committed crimes as a juvenile resulting in a confidential juvenile record, any victim of that crime is entitled to access at least general information about the adjudication of that offense–which would certainly include any determination of guilt.  Further, that victim is under no constraint to keep such information confidential from the public or press.

Find an actual victim of a crime committed by Mike Brown as a juvenile, convince them to request information about the adjudication of that offense, further convince them to share that information with you, and bada-bing bada-boom, you’ve pierced confidentiality.

At least, that’s how I read the law–of course, IANAL in Missouri.

Thus, I expect that one way or another, Mike Brown’s juvenile record will eventually be disclosed.

Unless, of course, politics trumps legal process. Not that that would ever happen.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.


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Not A Member of Any Organized Political | September 4, 2014 at 10:03 am

That’s a juvenile?????

Not A Member of Any Organized Political | September 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

18 years old does not a juvenile make.

“during riots over the shooting death of 18 year-old Michael Brown.”

Char Char Binks | September 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

Any of the victims of Brown’s crimes committed as a juvenile would probably be too frightened and/or too black to come forward now.

Phillep Harding | September 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

CNN just reported that the feds are opening a new investigation into his death. Will that keep his juvie record (“if any”) sealed under the pretext of “ongoing investigation”?

Does anyone want to bet he does not have a juvie record?

TrooperJohnSmith | September 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Okay, what will become of, “Rationale for Juvenile Confidentiality Would Seem to End at Death”? It would, indeed, but the Missouri law is silent on that? How do we get the other shoe to drop? Or, is that up to officer Wilson’s counsel to initiate?

Which brings us back to the point of stating the obvious. When we write laws, why is something this glaring left out of a law? “When said juvenile is dead, he/she/it shall forfeit all rights to holding any and all records in confidentiality….”

The cynical side of me says that you gents in the legal profession who inhabit legislative bodies, leave points of contention throughout laws and regulations on purpose. These holes are not just for people like me to drive trucks through, but to create an opportunity for at least three legal-istas – a judge and two lawyers – to meet and pontificate over. But, I will admit that I have a great friend and lawyer (partner at “Dewey, Cheatum & Howe,” Houston, TX), so some good does come from it.

    Trooper Smith exposes himself as a stoogephile.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to TrooperJohnSmith. | September 4, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    A long time ago a friend of mine told the story of how a friend of his was working at a company on a programming project. They had this problem that took him a long time to solve.

    About a month after he solved the problem, he went to his bossx and told him he figured out a better way to solve the problem. The bosses respponse was: “Why didn’t you figure that out before?”

    I guess the answer to that question and yours are pretty much the same.

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm

It’s hard to see an argument for keeping the records sealed. If there is nothing there then there really is no reason, but if something does exist–it is going to become a public anyway–especially if Wilson is indicted. Further if Wilson is not indicted, then release of the records ( in the case there is something there ) can be important in understanding the GJ decision.

    Phillep Harding in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | September 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    They just need to delay the release of his records until after the issue has died down a bit. Methods do not need to stand legal scrutiny, if the race baiters can scream loud enough.

    After that, they will start brushing off anything said as “ancient history”.

Find an actual victim of a crime committed by Mike Brown as a juvenile, convince them to request information about the adjudication of that offense, further convince them to share that information with you, and bada-bing bada-boom, you’ve pierced confidentiality.

Yes, and you’ve also got a victim who will now be victimized again. He or she will be subjected to non-stop harassment and threats from the grievance industry race-baiters working to perpetuate the myth of “gentle giant” Mike Brown.

Who is going to want to put themselves in that position?

In any event, the juvenile records — if they exist — should be released. And I suspect they do exist, just from the way the court official denied that Brown had any “major felonies.” If he had no juvenile criminal record at all, why not just say that?

    Deodorant in reply to Observer. | September 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    “you’ve also got a victim who will now be victimized” The sub-text of your comment seems to be that all the good guys are being victimized by them bad black people. You seem to think that losing some of the privilege that you were granted by right of birth is the same as being mistreated.

    Would you really have wanted to trade places with Brown from birth? How would you like to live in a town that was 70% white with a 95% black police force?

    Perhaps you are unaware, or don’t care that you can get a criminal record in a black community for for hanging out on your stoop. You can be stopped 200 times in a year. How many times were you stopped last year?

    Recently, I took a short cut through a predominately black neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I was pulled over. The cop got out. His partner assumed the felony stop position. The 1st cop took a look at me and then told me that I had not signaled a turn. He let me go without checking any of my documents. The whole stop took 1 minute – I do not exaggerate. Guess what color I am.

    Don’t confuse Sharpton with reality. Sharpton is just the black Limbaugh or the black Fox personality.

    But what color would you rather be? Which guy is dead?

    This is a bad case for both sides. Wilson was beaten. He will walk. But there are cases like Amadou Diallo. He was shot 41 times while minding his own business. He had no record. 41 times. Guess what color he was. Guess what color all 4 cops were.

      Phillep Harding in reply to Deodorant. | September 4, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Between 95% and 98% of black crime victims are victimized by black criminals.

      FBI crime statistics.

        True. Some people do not want to accept reality. And I am a black male.

        So what? There was unspeakable crimes committed by some of the inmates in concentration camps. I guess we shouldn’t blame the nazis.

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

          Godwin Prize winnah, right here…!!!

          Whadda moron…

          Deodorant in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm

          @Ragspierre: ad hominem – once again

          Cue the contradiction ……………….

          Monty Python had a great skit on the difference between contraction and argument.

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

          D’oderant’s argument…

          Founding premise: “Between 95% and 98% of black crime victims are victimized by black criminals.”

          D’oderant’s premises:

          1. So what? There was [sic] unspeakable crimes committed by some of the inmates in concentration camps.

          2. I guess we shouldn’t blame the nazis [sic].

          3. Implicit premise: America is like Nazi concentration camps if you are black.

          4. Implicit premise: bad situations remove culpability from people.

          Ragspierre’s argument:

          1. D’orderant forfeits the “argument” by invocation of the Godwin Rule, which is a self-contained argument well known to intelligent people who post on the interwebs.

          2. Some arguments are too stupid to require exhaustive explication.

          3. People who make moronic arguments are morons.

          See how that works…???

          Deodorant in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

          @Ragspierre “3. Implicit premise: America is like Nazi concentration camps if you are black.”

          That was not my implicit premise. I offered a simple deduction.

          Blacks are in an oppressive situation. Some react against their peers because they are relatively powerless to act again against their oppressors.

          There was absolutely no implication that America is as bad as Nazi Germany. That is not to say that blacks have not been oppressed for hundreds of years and long after slavery officially ended. But even in the relatively benign situation of today, is there any question that blacks are concentrated and subject to de facto rules and historical artifacts that keep them as an underclass? Only a f00l or a denier could argue otherwise.

          My reason for commenting on this site is that it is made up of nothing but Prize winnahs. Every article, and most of the comments, are about how bad conservatives have it. You can cut the outrage with a knife. There is a total lack of perspective and a short-sighted, selective view of history. The participants are self-centered. They bemoan injustices they think they have been subjected to and ignore the injustices that have been perpetrated on others. (Slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, the convict labor system, unequal justice and opportunity, discrimination, sterotyping) Sure it is much better than it was. But that is no thanks to conservatives. What a bunch of winnahs.

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm

          See? You are a delusional, hate-twisted Collectivist moron.

          And you lie. You said what you said, and anyone can read it for themselves.

          You come here to indulge some deep, dark pathologies, and we all know it. Well, except you. Your crap-pack prevents ideas from entering. They just bounce off. We’ve seen it all too often. You aren’t even “special”.

          Deodorant in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm

          You should stop looking in the mirror while you write. I have no hatred for you. But I do hear your hatred loud and clear. Accordingly, you need to distort or ignore my point of view. I offered a simple analogy. You tried to discredit it by misinterpreting it and then attacking me based on your misinterpretation.

          Believe it or not, I would prefer a dialog. But apparently your ideology is so rigid that you cannot stand anything that puts that ideology in doubt. You cannot tolerate it. So you must be the victim. You must be the one who is being treated unfairly. You are never wrong.

          You need to convince yourself that I suffer from that same malady. Sorry to disappoint, but I go where the facts take me. The facts do not take me to the reactionary world you inhabit. Sorry if the simple act of offering an alternative point of view inflames you to such hostility.

          Is there no room for an alternative point of view on this board or in your world view? I hate to break it to you, but we exist and we are not all idiots. Dismissing us as idiots disarms you. Then you wonder why you are losing. I am not talking about electoral politics. I am talking about the cultural revolution. You are losing that. You will lose that.

          So long for now. You can have the last word if it makes you feel better. I won’t be reading it. I already know what you will write.

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 6:48 pm


          Starting with your LAST lie, you will too read this.

          And you have no idea what I’ll write.

          Here, for instance, is some kindly advice; if you read this site and the comments, you will be exposed to ideas and information you could benefit by.

          The root of this thread is a very good, informative exposition of the legal aspects of obtaining a juvenile record in the context of the death of the juvenile.

          Observer’s comment was about the prospect of re-victimizing someone who came forward to help obtain the records in question.

          Nobody who was not delusional would find ANY “grievance” moaning, which you assert is all one CAN find here.

          Nobody who was not delusional would find ANY racial component in Observer’s comment or the root piece by Andrew.

          IFFFFFF you EVER DO want a dialog, you should begin some OTHER WAY than accusing…groundlessly…people of racism.

          ALSO, you should at least suppress your GRAND DELUSION you are the smartest person in whatever room you are in. ‘Cause, honey…!!!

          Phillep Harding in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 8:10 pm

          What percentage of the total number of “unspeakable acts” were committed by actual inmates? A few percent?

          How does a tiny percentage of such unspeakable acts equate to the 95% to 98% of serious crimes committed against blacks by blacks?

          Oh, and you impress no one with the rather boring and emotionally charged “unspeakable acts”. I’ll wager that most of the posters here are better acquainted with the horrors humans can inflict on other humans than you are.

          Few, if any, here are at all impressed.

      Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      “The sub-text of your comment seems to be that all the good guys are being victimized by them bad black people.”

      Only to the totally race-obsessed mind of a hate-twisted Collectivist.

      But you imagine a lot of “sub-texts” and other total BS.

        Deodorant in reply to Ragspierre. | September 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Thank you, house troll, for your ad hominem attack.

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm

          There was no “ad hominem” there, you poor idiot.

          You believe all kinds of hate-twisted mythology, and you’re proud of it.

          You also see racial “sub-texts” were there are none. This is because you are not in your right mind.


          Deodorant in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

          @Ragspierre: “Only to the totally race-obsessed mind of a hate-twisted Collectivist.” Nope that isn’t an attack on the person, rather than the argument.

          Can you do anything other than contradiction? I find you amusing. Somehow you are a lawyer, but you argue like a slightly slow 12 year old boy.

          BTW, I am not race-obsessed. I don’t have to be. As I pointed out, the cops didn’t hassle me. But I do know which side I am on.

          Why don’t you look up the word: “nuance”?

          Ragspierre in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm

          You poor, stupid Collectivist troll.

          You didn’t make an “argument”.

          You made an unsupported…unsupportABLE…racist accusation.

          And you ARE a hate-twisted, moronic Collectivist.

          You believe outright mythology because it fits your hatred of anything American. Take, for instance, your “smallpox blanket” fantasy. Do you EVER research crap they pack in your skull from the moonbattery…???

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

          “Nope that isn’t an attack on the person, rather than the argument.”

          Seriously? As a medical and mental health professional I feel ethically bound at this point to suggest that you seek professional help soon.

          God Bless and Best Wishes.

      Observer in reply to Deodorant. | September 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      First, there was no “sub text” to my comment about the victim, because I have no idea what color that victim (or those victims) were. Considering that Brown lived in a town that was largely black, it’s more likely that the victims were black, rather than white, because those are the people Brown was interacting with most often.

      As for how many times I was stopped by police last year, the answer is two. BTW, both times I was stopped by Hispanic cops. Does that automatically make them racist?

      There are good cops, and there are bad cops. Just like there are good people and bad people — and both kinds come in a variety of skin colors: white, black, and everything in between.

      Why don’t we judge these cases based on the evidence, rather than on the parties’ skin color? I think (or at least I hope) that we can all agree that nobody wants to see cops using excessive force on any civilians, of any color.

      heyjoojoo in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 2:57 am

      I’ve never been stopped by a police officer where I felt I was being mistreated. Never. I also had officers draw guns on myself and another hiker thinking that we had guns out at a park. Turned out that it was just a misunderstanding. I made no phone calls to Sharpton nor the NAACLP. 🙂

      stevewhitemd in reply to Deodorant. | September 5, 2014 at 7:52 am

      There’s no question that many black men have had significant problems with the law simply because of their color. We’re all aware of the issue of “driving while black”. It should not be that way.

      That is a different issue than what is being discussed here. Officer Wilson originally confronted Mr. Brown and friend for walking in the middle of the street. Not a serious crime but it is something that a person of any color shouldn’t do. The confrontation then escalated when Officer Wilson (it appears) became aware that Mr. Brown had, a few minutes before, committed a felony, and likewise when Mr. Brown came to understand that he was in big trouble.

      Everyone here will agree that a black man should not be rousted simply for being black. I hope you’ll agree that a man, black or white, who robs a convenience store and then viciously assaults a police officer has no complaint if he finds himself full of bullets.

What is the law in florida, why wouldn’t Trayvon’s records have been released after his death? I understand that his previous acts can’t be used against him but if relevant (acts of violence) why would the judge have excluded them as evidence to support a defendants case of innocence? Other than the judge is corrupt!

    Whether a juvenile record is confidential and whether such record may be admissible in a particular trial are two completely distinct issues.

    Well, I suppose the first must be settled before you can consider the second, but otherwise they’re completely distinct. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

I guess one could speculate that Michael Brown may have been ‘charged’ with a serious felony, but was allowed to adjudicate it as a misdemeanor.

    Char Char Binks in reply to Redneck Law. | September 4, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    People are saying that the fact that he was never found guilty of the crime he committed in the above photo means he didn’t do it, or words to that effect. Maybe his corpse should be put on trial for strong-arm robbery.

“All of these rationales, however, are personal to the juvenile. And as such, they pass away when the juvenile passes away. Upon death, the juvenile has no further prospects for ‘turning their life around,’ and thus a lack of confidentiality cannot harm such prospects. The very rationale for confidentiality disappears entirely.”

Hit the nail on the head, you did. The “privacy” extended to the offender is limited in scope to this purpose; it was never the legislature’s intent for it to be a general or blanket protection. The state does not have a compelling interest in protecting a deceased adult from his juvenile record.

Dont’cha just love that freeze frame from the video above? Yeah, Mikey, how damned dare some cop think you don’t have the entitlement to take whatever you want from a convenience store and attack a cop who dares to stop you. Way, waaaay past time for the black folks in the Age of Obama to try on the Big Boy Pants and quit bleating “WAAACCCIIISSSSSSSSSTTTTTSSSSSS…!!!”

So, you buy Rev. Tawana Sharpton’s Grift? Baa-Daa-Bing.

Mike Brown has a school record! And, he wasn’t in a regular classroom. But in some sort of “make up” program which he needed to attend in order to “catch up” with the units he’d need to graduate.

At first, the fairytale went “he was on his way to his grandma’s house. And, “the gentle giant” was two days away from starting college.

He also seemed familiar enough with marijuana to know that the stolen “swishers” made excellent wrappers … Or “re-wrappers” for putting loose marijuana.

He knew how to steal. And, he knew how to intimidate the store clerk at the Furgeson “store” and “market.”

You also know that Eric Holder has been using his office to intimidate the locals. And, is now threatening the local police with “civil rights violations.”

The media is also playing a game where they’re trying to show the public has lost interest.

The other piece to this story is that the police officer, Darren Wilson, has also seemed to have disappeared to a place outside of Missouri.

And, with what the rioters have done to commercial properties that are no longer viable … so that it reduces the money available to the locals … Could mean the school district will be “sh#t out of luck when it comes to revenues.

If you want to, you could use Watts as your example. That area in LA never got rebuilt. And, still has no supermarket chain. It’s hard to buy a carton of milk. And, when it’s available the cost became prohibitive.

Trials must be public yes but Michael Brown is the victim. He’s not on trial.

    Ragspierre in reply to Vlad. | September 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    He is not a “victim” according to some information. And nobody is on trial yet.

    We will see as due process processes.

    Phillep Harding in reply to Vlad. | September 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    The statements made regarding his character place him before the court of public opinion.

    Rebutting evidence is relevant in such court.

    Objection denied.