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Criminal Justice Hearsay, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1100

Essay

The laws against hearsay in testimonies help support our legal system’s guarantee of the truth.  “The cardinal flaw of hearsay evidence lies in our inability to assess the testimonial capacities of the declarant (Cronan, 2002)”. The following paper discusses and analyzes three different scenarios in regard to hearsay that were presented in a criminal case for a defendant that was on trial for calling in a false bomb scare and inducing panic on a college campus. The first scenario occurs as the Prosecutor calls a witness, Miss Maggie, to the stand.  Miss Maggie testified that she heard someone say that there was a bomb planted in the science building and that it was going to go off at 1:00 pm.  In addition, she pointed her finger towards the defendant when asked if that person she heard was in the courtroom.  This statement is hearsay; however, with an exception.  The statement is against the interest by the declarant.  Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) states that the admission of statements against the declarant’s interests is not hearsay.  The rule basically states that if a reasonable individual makes a statement against their interests, it is unlikely to be false.  (Cronan, 2002)  In this case, Miss Maggie did not have anything to gain by saying false accusations to the police; therefore, we can assume that this scenario is not hearsay and not a false statement.

The second scenario is presented in regard to the cross-examination for Miss Maggie.  The Defense Counsel offers the prior statement provided from Miss Maggie to the investigating police who were called to the scene on the day in question.  In the statement, the Defense Counsel indicated that Miss Maggie told the police that she did not clearly see who made the statement about the presence of a bomb. The second scenario is hearsay; however, falls within the exception of a prior inconsistent statement to impeach a witness.  During the cross-examination, the Defense Counsel’s purpose was to discredit the witness through impeachment.  The Defense Counsel introduced evidence that undermined the credibility or reliability of Miss Maggie and set the witness up for the process of impeachment through the inconsistent statement.  (Bennett)  The Federal law 801(d)(1) states that “ prior statement by the witness is not hearsay if the declarant testifies and is subject to cross examination and the statement is either inconsistent with the declarant’s testimony, and was given under oath at another proceeding or consistent with the declarant’s testimony and is offered to rebut an express or implied charge against the declarant of recent fabrication, improper influence or motive; or one of identification of a person made after perceiving the person (Bennett)”.  In addition, any hearsay statement defined in Rule 801(d)(2)(C)(D) or (E) that has been brought in as evidence can be attacked, and supported by evidence that can be admissible.  In this case, the Defense Counsel was entitled to examine the declarant in regard to the statement under the cross-examination.

In the third scenario, the prosecution rests and the Defense Counsel called their first witness, Mr. Mickie.  Mr. Mickie testified that he was standing near Miss Maggie at the time and on the date in question.  Mr. Mickie indicated that Miss Maggie turned to him and said that she just heard someone say that there was a bomb planted somewhere in the building.  In addition, Mr. Mickie indicated that when he asked which student said that there was a bomb planted in the building, Miss Maggie just stared wide-eyed and shook her head.  This particular scenario is hearsay and there does not seem to be an exception. This is therefore part of the hearsay rule in which a person wishes to testify in court about a statement that was overheard being made.  This testimony’s purpose is to try and prove that the statement is true and therefore, the hearsay rule states that it is inadmissible.

The overall approach of the hearsay rule can be clear; however, the rule is subject to many different exceptions.  These exceptions were issued through judicial determinations and legislations.  The exceptions to the hearsay rule can effect specific out-of-court statements and determine the statements admissible.  In addition, the rule is very complex and arises from the existence of inclusionary exceptions to the hearsay rule and gives rise to whether specific evidence can be used as original evidence or hearsay.  In addition, the hearsay rule requires that testimony occur in open court in front of the jury with the opportunity for cross-examination. The rule of hearsay is complex and has eight exemptions and twenty-eight exceptions attached to it.  The rationale for these exemptions and exceptions is to support the circumstances that occur for out of court statements that can be considered reliable and to remove any type of hearsay by cross-examining.  Therefore, it is an understanding that hearsay has a main purpose, the right to cross-examine.  In addition, in order to avoid hearsay, the opposing counsel must use the out-of-court statement that was made at the scene in order to prevent faulty perception, inaccurate memory, ambiguity or insincerity, such as bias, interest, corruption or prejudice.   Furthermore, the witness must be readily available during trial for cross-examination at the time the information is being presented on the statement.  (Taylor)

For this particular case, it was determined that the third scenario was most likely hearsay.  The scenario was determined whether it was hearsay or not using a three step analysis with the following questions: Is the statement out of court? Is it and assertive statement? Is it being offered for the truth of the matter being asserted?  In order to determine a statement as hearsay, all three of these questions, must be answered and met.  In the case with Miss Maggie and Mr. Mickie, both witnesses were in court; however, per Evid C §225, a statement can refer to a written or verbal statement or a nonverbal expression from a person used in lieu of an oral or written statement.  (Judicial Council of California)  In this case, Mr. Mickie indicated that he saw Miss Maggie shake her head when he asked her who said there was a bomb.  In this case, this statement is therefore hearsay.

References

Cronan, J.P.  (2002).  Do Statements Against Interests Exist? A Critique of the Reliability of Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) and a Proposed Reformulation.  Seton Hall Law Review. 33(001):1-30.

Bennett, C.  IMPEACHMENT BY INCONSISTENT STATEMENT & OMISSION: REVEALING THE WITNESS’S TRUE COLORS. Committee for Public Counsel Services. Boston, MA. Retrieved from: http://www.wisspd.org/htm/ATPracGuides/Training/ProgMaterials/Conf2012/Misc/WinImpeachment.pdf

Judicial Council of California.  Hearsay and It’s Exceptions.  Retrieved from: http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/courses/hearsay_2/hearsay2_summary.pdf

Taylor, D.  Hearsay and the Right of Confrontation in American Trials by Jury.  Retrieved from: http://niu.edu/law/faculty/directory/Taylor_Paper_Final%20Draft.pdf

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