AN OVERVIEW OF RELEVANCE AND HEARSAY:
A NINE STEP ANALYTICAL GUIDE [Article Outline]
NORMAN M. GARLAND 1
This article is an analytical guide to the study of two major aspects of evidence: relevance and hearsay. The vehicle used by this guide is a step by step, nine question analysis, applicable to any admissibility of evidence problem. This guide should help one determine whether any item of evidence is admissible under the rules of evidence pertaining to relevance and hearsay. The answers to the first four questions 2 determine whether any item of proffered evidence is admissible under the two components of relevancy: logical and legal relevancy. If the evidence in question is a statement, then the answers to questions five through nine will determine whether the evidence is admissible under the rules of hearsay.
The nine steps (questions) are:
1. What is the evidence?
2. What is the evidence offered to prove?
3. Does the evidence help? This third question may, for ease of analysis, be broken into two subdivisions: (a) Does the evidence offered tend to make some assertion of fact at issue in the case more or less likely to be true, than if the evidence is not admitted?; (b) How does the evidence tend to prove that for which it is offered?
4. Even if the evidence helps, is its probative value (i.e., its ability to prove an assertion of fact at issue) substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, possibility of misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence? This question, presented in Federal Rule of Evidence 403, requires a balancing of the costs and benefits of logically relevant evidence (this balancing concept will be referred to herein as the Rule 403 balancing test).
These first four questions constitute the analysis for logical relevance and the Rule 403 balancing test. The remaining five questions are:
5. Is the evidence a statement?
6. If so, is the evidence of the statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted (or, alternatively, does the statement have to be true to be probative)?
7. If so, is the statement either within an exemption from or an exception to the hearsay rule?
8. If the statement is not admissible under a traditional exemption from or exception to the hearsay rule, is it admissible under a catch-all exception (Rules 803(24) or 804(b)(5))?
9. Finally, in a criminal prosecution, is admission of the hearsay statement forbidden by the Confrontation Clause or required by the Due Process Clause? By using this easily learned, step by step analysis, most of the difficult problems of the rules of evidence can be solved by the beginning student.
1. What is the evidence?
Although it seems self-evident, this question must be answered before the next steps in the analytical process may be pursued. Do not skip this step or go on to the subsequent questions without first articulating what the evidence is. If more than one item of evidence in question exists, be sure to isolate each piece, each component. The best approach is to make a list of each item of evidence (i.e., is it a statement, a document, or a piece of physical evidence?).
One should be aware that step five (Is the evidence a statement?) is a "subset" of this question. "Statement" is a legal conclusion that requires the detailed analysis of step five. At this point, identification of the evidence should be by type: Is the evidence physical, such as a knife? Is it demonstrative, such as a model of the accident scene? Is it simply the observation of an incident as related by a witness in open court? Is it an utterance or conduct by some person which occurred out of court? Isolate and identify each piece of evidence. For example, each utterance is a discreet piece of evidence: All utterances by one person cannot be lumped together as a single evidentiary offer; some may be admissible under the rules of hearsay, which will be discussed in steps five through nine; other utterances may not be admissible.
2. What is the evidence offered to prove?
This step requires knowledge of the elements of substantive law pertaining to criminal and civil actions (e.g., murder, theft, negligence). Some element of a crime or civil cause of action, or some defense to either is always the ultimate object of the evidentiary offer. However, one usually seeks to prove some intermediate proposition leading to an element of the case. Issue spotting--a process familiar to law students--will provide the answer sought by the second question most of the time. However, as with issue spotting, the problem is not always what it first seems to be. Take care to clearly identify what it is that needs to be proven--spell it out completely. For example, assume that V is dead, apparently a homicide victim, and D is charged with V's murder. The prosecution discovers that D wrote a love letter to V's wife and offers it in evidence. The evidence of the love letter is evidence of D's desire for V's wife, and is ultimately probative of the element of intent (or the intermediate fact of motive). 3 The letter is therefore logically relevant.
If one cannot articulate what the evidence is offered to prove, the possibility exists that the case has not been sufficiently thought out. One must either reanalyze what must be proven (i.e., what are the elements of the particular action), or creatively contemplate different ways that the elements can be proven by circumstantial evidence. If it is the former, merely start over again at this step and reanalyze the problem with the elements correctly stated. Again, write down the answer to this question.
3. Does the evidence help to prove that for which it is offered?
Two essential ingredients are necessary to answer this inquiry: First, the definition of logical relevance; and, second some consideration of the reasoning process. The syllogism is the most useful tool here. As discussed above, this analysis consists of two parts: (a) Does the evidence tend to make it more or less likely that some assertion of fact at issue in the case is really true; (b) How does the evidence tend to do so? Actually, the first part cannot be answered without first answering the second. The two subdivisions of the question are merely a focusing mechanism for a general inquiry about how the evidence does help to prove or disprove the assertion.
A. Logical Relevance Defined
The modern approach to relevance breaks the definition into two components: logical relevance 4 and the Rule 403 balancing test. 5 Moreover, the modern view is that all relevant evidence is admissible, unless excludible for some reason other than irrelevancy, and all evidence that is irrelevant is inadmissible. So, " 'relevant evidence' [logically relevant] means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." 6 Evidence is logically relevant if it makes the fact of consequence more likely or less likely. So, the evidence may tend to prove or disprove the fact for which it is to be considered.
Evidence that is otherwise logically relevant "may be excluded if its probative value [logical relevance value] is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence." 7 This balancing test of Rule 403 provides a basis for testing admissibility of evidence on policy grounds, as distinguished from testing on grounds of logical relevance. 8
Only the definition of logical relevance will be considered in answering the third question, i.e., does the evidence tend to prove or disprove the proposition for which it is offered? Incorporating the definition into the question, the question becomes: Does the evidence have any tendency to make it more or less likely that the fact that the evidence is offered to prove is true than it would be without the offer of that evidence?
A few points are worth noting here. First, the evidence will be logically relevant if it has any tendency (even the slightest) to make the fact of consequence more or less likely. 9 Thus, the evidence does not have to conclusively prove the fact. The evidence does not even have to prove the fact clearly, beyond a reasonable doubt, or to a certainty. Perhaps the best exposition of this legal reality is McCormick's observation that: "A brick is not a wall." 10 Whether the evidence is quantitatively enough to sustain the proponent's burden of proof goes to the sufficiency or the weight of the evidence, and is an altogether different question from whether the evidence is relevant. 11 Thus, if insufficient admissible and relevant evidence (a brick) is introduced on a point on which the proponent of the evidence bears the burden of proof, the proponent will lose that point and the case (the wall) even though all the evidence tended to prove that point.
Second, the definition states that the evidence is logically relevant if the evidence makes the asserted fact to be proven more (or less) likely to exist than the fact would be without the evidence. In other words, taking all things into consideration, and adding just this one piece of evidence, does the addition of it tip the scales even slightly? If so, then the evidence is logically relevant. 12
Third, special rules of evidence govern the admissibility of statements. The analysis of the logical relevance of a statement to an issue in the case is the same as determining whether the statement is "offered for the truth of the matter asserted" (step six below). Thus, if the evidence is a statement, one may find it helpful to read the analysis following step six below at this point.
Now, considering all the various factors subsumed under the rubric "logical relevance" (i.e., (1) the evidence need only make the fact more or less likely; (2) "A brick is not a wall"; and (3) how the evidence "tips the scales"), the result is that one need only be able to show that some likelihood is evident that the fact exists or does not exist from the evidence offered. This determination is all that the law requires by its definition of logical relevance.
B. Using a Syllogism: Identifying the Inference (Logical Premise)
The ultimate step in this process of articulating the logical relevance of any item of evidence requires acceptance of some premise that cannot be proven absolutely, but that is accepted based upon common human experience. 13 Behind every inference upon which the relevance of circumstantial evidence depends is a logical premise. By articulating both the inference and the premise, one will expose the sometimes surprising fact that the law of evidence, at least as it is applied to the definition of logical relevance, is principally predicated upon common sense. However, one must learn to articulate the assumed principle of common sense.
The crucial point here is that unless the premise is articulated, one cannot focus on why the evidence has some tendency to prove or disprove the fact for which it is offered. Thus, the question, "does the evidence help?" must be answered with an analysis of how the evidence helps, put in a syllogistic form, or at least in some form that articulates the otherwise unarticulated premise. For example, one who is seen running away from a building where a burglar alarm is ringing (and that building has been broken into), is more likely to be the burglar than if one had not been seen running from the building. 14 The premise will usually begin with a generalization, such as, "one who ..." or "people who...." Actually, in this example, the underlying, unarticulated premise is "people who flee from the scene of a crime are more likely guilty than if they did not flee."
Many people have been exposed to formal logical reasoning and are aware of the two forms: inductive and deductive. The inductive form goes from the specific to the general. One reasons from specific points to a broader premise. The deductive form goes from the general to the specific. Either reasoning process is dependent upon a generalization. In the deductive form, the generalization is articulated and may be examined. An oversimplified example is useful.
The evidence, a love letter to V's wife states that D planned to kill V. Does this evidence demonstrate that D did in fact kill V? Assume that V is dead of an apparent homicide. The precise inquiry is: Why is it that evidence of D's plan to kill V tends to prove that D did, in fact, kill V? The inductive form of the reasoning process is: D planned to kill V, therefore D probably did kill V. The inference of D's guilt is predicated upon an unarticulated premise. By stating the reasoning in the deductive form, that premise may be exposed: One who has a fixed design to kill is more likely to kill. D had a fixed design to kill V; therefore D probably killed V. In formal logic, the first statement is called the major premise, the second statement the minor premise and the third statement, the conclusion. Also, remember that this evidence is not offered as conclusive on the issue of D's killing of V. If it were the only evidence, then the case against D would be insufficient to take to the jury (or, perhaps even to charge D with any crime).
The "truth," or acceptability, of the underlying logical premise, however, is based upon common human experience, or common sense, not truth that is provable or even truth in some abstract, metaphysical sense. 15 One may, of course, debate how true that premise really is. The lawyer's job is advocacy and creativity in advancing arguments; 16 and so one must learn to articulate how D's fixed design has some tendency to make it more likely that D in fact killed V than it would be without the evidence of D's plan. Another example will help. 17 The evidence is that after P's injury at D's machinery, D repaired the machinery. The evidence is offered to prove that D was conscious of negligence. The unarticulated premise is: People who make repairs of machinery after an accident show a consciousness of negligence. 18 D made such repairs. Therefore D was conscious of negligence, which tends to prove D's negligence. 19 Thus, one must answer the question of how the evidence tends to prove the proposition for which it is offered and articulate the premise upon which it is based. Later, this Article demonstrates how this information is also utilized in the sixth step of this process to determine whether the evidence is hearsay. Therefore, it is important to spend whatever effort is required to answer this third inquiry.
4. Is the evidence, though logically relevant, inadmissible because it is unduly unfair?
Even though logically relevant (i.e., having probative value), evidence nevertheless may be excluded if to admit it would "entail risks which range all the way from inducing decision on a purely emotional basis, at one extreme, to nothing more harmful than merely wasting time, at the other extreme." 20 Thus Federal Rule of Evidence 403 provides that otherwise relevant evidence "may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence." 21 The federal rule does no more than codify the common law discretionary power of the judge to exclude otherwise relevant evidence on those, as well as other grounds. 22
Rule 403 is, by its terms, a balancing test for the admissibility of evidence. The cost of admission of otherwise relevant evidence is to be balanced against its probative worth, or benefit. Accordingly, the analysis is one of cost-benefit. If photographs of the victim of a murder are offered to prove the fact of death or even its cause, the court would have to balance the probative value against the potential for unfair emotional appeal to the jury that the pictures might have.
Some types of evidence recur in enough cases to warrant the creation of a special rule for this type of problem. 23 In such cases, rules have been established that predetermine the policy balance and state how such evidence should be treated. Examples of such rules are those dealing with evidence of character, 24 habit (or routine practice), 25 subsequent remedial measures, 26 compromise and offers to compromise, 27 payment of medical and similar expenses, 28 withdrawn pleas of guilty (or nolo contendere) and related discussions, 29 evidence related to liability insurance, 30 rules determining the admissibility of evidence of a rape victim's past behavior, 31 and rules determining the admissibility of evidence of similar crimes in sex offense cases. 32 All of these specific rules are particularized applications of the balancing test notion of Rule 403.
No formula or bright line rule exists as to how to decide a Rule 403 balancing question, other than to work with the language of the rule and articulate arguments and reasons. However, according to the language of Rule 403, the cost to be weighed against the assumed probative value must be substantial, before the evidence is excluded. Moreover, most students, and many lawyers for that matter, fail to articulate which Rule 403 ground they believe applies to exclude the otherwise relevant evidence. And, at the same time, they often fail to state how that ground will be manifested in the specific case. Failure to articulate either of these matters is an insufficient invocation of the rule.
Rule 403 is also known as the rule of "legal relevance." McCormick argues that this terminology is misleading and should be avoided. 33 Since the term is in general usage, it may be used.
Ballou v. Henri Studios, Inc. 34 provides a helpful discussion of Rule 403 and how it is applied, or rather, how it should not be applied. In Ballou, the survivors of the decedents of a collision, in which an automobile collide with a parked tractor, brought suit against the employer of a tractor trailer driver, alleging that their deaths were caused by the negligence of the truck driver. The trial court had denied the admission of blood acohol tests conducted on the deceased driver, which measured 0.24% blood alcohol content, pursuant to Rule 403. The trial court felt that the evidence would be extremely prejudicial to the plaintiff in light of the fact that "it is never possible to judge the attitude of a jury and how they are affected by the subject of alcohol." 35 Obviously, the court of appeals reversed concluding that the district court had committed reversible error when it excluded the evidence under Rule 403. The court stated, "although evidence of Ballou's intoxication would surely have an adverse effect on the plaintiff's case, most of the potential prejudice flowing from the evidence cannot be considered to be unfair since Ballou's intoxication is unquestionably a legitimate ground for finding contributory negligence... the slight potential for unfair prejudice is virtually insignificant when compared with the high relevance and probative value of the evidence." 36
5. Is the evidence a statement?
[Illustrative Questions: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 52, 55, 57, 60, 63, 65, 66, 67, 73, 89, 105, 108]
Having determined that the proffered evidence is logically and legally relevant from the first four steps of this process, it is now appropriate to consider whether the evidence is hearsay. The classic definition of hearsay and the one used here, is "an out-of-court statement, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted." 37 Thus, out-of-court statements are hearsay only if offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, and hearsay evidence is inadmissible when it falls outside an exemption from the rule or an exception to the rule.
The first step in our inquiry is to determine whether the evidence is a statement. Of concern here is the legal definition from the Federal Rules of Evidence, 38 not the lay concepts of what a statement might be. By inquiring whether the evidence is a statement, the first element of the definition of hearsay is considered. If the conclusion is that the evidence is not a statement, then the evidence is not hearsay for that reason. Said another way, the evidence is definitionally excluded from the hearsay rule. The hearsay inquiry in that event is thus terminated. If the conclusion is that the evidence is a statement, the analysis must further continue on to determine whether the statement fits within other aspects of the definition of hearsay. Not all evidence in the form of a statement is hearsay evidence, as shall be seen. When the conclusion is that the evidence is not hearsay because it is not a statement, such conclusion was reached under the definition of what is a statement in the hearsay rule.
Rule 801(a) of the Federal Rules of Evidence defines a statement as: "(1) an oral or written assertion or (2) nonverbal conduct of a person, if it is intended by the person as an assertion." This definition requires that an intent to assert exists before we may conclude that a statement exists. 39 The "statement" may be either in the form of an oral or written assertion or it may be in the form of assertive conduct. But the focus of the definition is that the hearsay declarant must intend to assert.
The definition talks about intent to assert on the part of the declarant when acting, speaking or writing. Such assertions constitute statements within the definition of a statement of the hearsay rule. As the drafters of the Federal Rules noted, "the key to the definition is that nothing is an assertion unless intended to be one." 40 Most verbal evidence is easily determined to be a statement within the definition. However, sometimes people say or do something without intending to assert. Perhaps they ask a question, or give a direction, or just act in a way that communicates a belief, but is not a direct assertion. 41 In such an instance, if the action was not intended as an assertion, then the conduct is not a statement within the definition of hearsay. Such "nonassertive conduct" as a matter of definition is not hearsay; it is not a statement, because it is not intended as a statement.
For example, assume that the captain of a seagoing vessel, after inspecting the ship and before departing on a long journey across the ocean, takes his wife and two small children out for a weekend jaunt as a "farewell outing." 42 Looking at the conduct of the captain, it may be taken to prove that he believed that the vessel was seaworthy. 43 However, absent some other evidence that the captain probably intended to go sailing; it is not likely that he intended to assert anything, much less assert something on the subject of the seaworthiness of the vessel, and thus, the conduct is not a statement within the definition of a statement for hearsay purposes. Therefore, the statement is not hearsay. This conclusion follows from the Federal Rules of Evidence, because the ship captain's conduct constitutes what is known as nonassertive conduct. 44
Actually, the form of such nonassertiveness on the part of the actor (or declarant) need not be conduct. It may be words and conduct together, or words alone. 45 Nonetheless, this category of nonstatement/nonhearsay is widely known as nonassertive conduct. 46
Simply put, words alone, conduct alone, or words and conduct together are not a statement (and thus not hearsay) if the person acting, speaking, or both, does not intend to make an assertion. Please note that if the person makes an assertion, either in words or conduct alone or words and conduct together, but the assertion is offered as a basis for inferring something other than the truth of the matter asserted, the evidence is excluded from the definition of hearsay under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(c), not 801(a). That such conduct or utterances are not hearsay is the result intended by the Federal Rules of Evidence. But, that result is not without controversy. In fact, there has been a debate on this point ever since the earliest discussions of the decision in Wright v. Doe dem. Tatham. 47 However, the drafters of the Federal Rules have adopted the conclusion of McCormick that conduct (other than assertions) when offered to show the actor's beliefs and hence the truth of the facts so believed, being merely analogous to and not identical with typical hearsay, ought to be admissible whenever the trial judge in his discretion finds that the action so vouched the belief as to give reasonable assurance of trustworthiness. 48 Finally, the issue arises as to who decides the question of intent and how. The Advisory Committee's note provides the answer:
When evidence of conduct is offered on the theory that it is not a statement, and hence not hearsay, a preliminary determination will be required to determine whether an assertion is intended. The rule [Rule 801(a)] is so worded as to place the burden upon the party claiming that the intention existed; ambiguous and doubtful cases will be resolved against him in favor of admissibility. The determination involves no greater difficulty than many other preliminary questions of fact. 49
Moreover, because the preliminary question of fact (intent) is one determining the admissibility of evidence, not merely a question of conditional relevancy, it is a question for the judge under Federal Rule of Evidence 104(a), not for the jury under Federal Rule 104(b). 50
So, one category of acts or utterances that are not statements are those that are nonassertive. Thus the vast categories of exclusions 51 from the definition of hearsay exist because no "statement" exists in the first instance.
6. If the evidence is a statement, is the
evidence of the statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted (or, alternatively,
need the statement be true to be probative)?
[Illustrative Questions: 6, 7, 9, 18, 19, 21, 31, 36, 37, 38, 40, 44, 72, 75, 77, 79, 110, 113, 120, 121, 123, 125]
The next STEP, or question, in the process is simply an application of the heart of the definition of hearsay using the language of Rule 801(c) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. 52 Rule 801(c) provides that "a statement [as defined in Rule 801(a) ], other than one made by the declarant while testifying, is hearsay if it is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted." 53 The inquiry requires a determination whether the words contained in the statement (or the import of the conduct which is assertive) are only relevant if they are true. Actually, the analysis for this step is the same as the analysis of relevance in the first three. All that is necessary now is to adapt the relevance analysis to the definition of hearsay! 54 It is important to see that this inquiry may be expressed as either: (1) is the evidence of the statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted; or (2) need the statement be true to be probative?
These statements are alternative formulations of the same question. Both statements are derived from the language of Rule 801(c): "offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." Moreover, note that the analysis relating to determining the evidence's logical relevance will help in deciding whether the statement is being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. A statement may be logically relevant in two ways: (1) the mere fact that it was made, or heard, by a particular person, regardless of its truth of falsity, may tend to establish an ultimate fact in the case; or (2) the statement may be relevant only if the statement is true. If the statement is relevant under alternative (1), then it is not hearsay. If the statement is relevant only if it is true, alternative (2), then it is hearsay, and admissible only if it fits within an exemption or exception to the exclusionary rule of hearsay. 55
The hearsay rule is designed to eliminate the repetition in court of statements by out-of-court declarants without the opportunity for cross-examination 56 and observation by the jury. The testimony of every witness involves elements for the jury's review relating to perception, memory, narration and sincerity. 57 The hearsay rule seeks to eliminate or overcome the risks involved when a jury hears evidence of such statements without the opportunity to observe the declarant's demeanor, evaluate the declarant's ability to perceive, remember, narrate and be sincere, and to consider the effect of cross-examination. In short, the hearsay rule seeks to overcome these hearsay risks by either excluding such evidence or only letting it in if the risks are balanced by other factors. 58
Before turning to some examples to clarify the foregoing, an important observation is in order. When we exclude from the operation of the hearsay rule those statements that are not offered for the truth of the matter contained in them, we establish a category of statements that are definitionally excluded from the hearsay rule.
Another category of statements that are exempted from the hearsay rule under the Federal Rules of Evidence are witnesses' prior statements and admissions by a party opponent. 59 The first exclusion category, of course, includes evidence that is not a statement, either because no statement was involved or because the evidence constituted nonassertive conduct or words. By contrast, in the following examples, the evidence excluded from the hearsay rule are statements, but they are not offered for the truth of the matter asserted (NOTMA). They fall into the following subcategories: (a) operative legal facts; (b) state of mind of the auditor; (c) state of mind of the declarant (circumstantial state of mind); (d) state of mind (knowledge) of the declarant on the "traces of the mind" theory; and (e) evidence that is otherwise not offered for the truth of the matter asserted (NOTMA), but to prove something else.
In each of the following examples the "significance of [the] ... offered statement lies solely in the fact that it was made; no issue is raised as to the truth of anything asserted, and the statement is not hearsay." 60
A. Operative Legal Fact
[Illustrative Questions: 1, 3, 10, 11, 20, 28, 30, 35, 56, 62, 71, 78, 90, 119, 124]
Statements that are legally operative "create or extinguish legal rights, powers, or duties." 61 This category, known as operative legal facts, is also sometimes known as "verbal acts" or "verbal parts of an act." 62 The expression, "operative legal fact," seems to be preferred by the drafters of the Federal Rules of Evidence 63 and numerous commentators. 64 For purposes of specificity and clarity, "operative legal fact" shall be used here. As noted by the drafters of the Federal Rules of Evidence, an operative legal fact occurs when "the statement itself affects the legal rights of the parties or is a circumstance bearing on the conduct affecting their rights." 65 Actually, one might say that an operative legal fact occurs when the utterance of the very words themselves constitutes the legal effect. One example of an operative legal fact that is easy to understand is an offer in a contract of sale. If A says to B, "I offer to sell you 20 widgets for $50," the words uttered by A are significant merely because they were uttered. The words create in B the power to form a contract and constitute an element of a contract for sale. The statement need not be true to be probative of the fact of the formation of a contract. It is true that the words need to have been uttered, but this requirement may be proven by any witness who heard A speak. Such a witness could testify about hearing A utter the words, and then the witness could be cross-examined as to perception, memory, sincerity and clarity of communication. 66 If the witness was believed, an element of the contractual relationship would be proven by the mere fact that the words were uttered.
Some other examples also demonstrate that words of operative legal effect need only be uttered to be relevant: e.g., words of donative intent accompanying the delivery of a gift; 67 solicitation of a bribe; solicitation for prostitution; 68 the utterances that constitute a slander; and the speaking of marriage vows. 69 Note that often, though not always, the operative legal fact utterance is an element of a crime, tort or contract.
B. State of Mind of the Auditor 70
[Illustrative Questions: 4, 8, 16, 17, 39, 76]
The first of four types of state of mind form the next subcategory of definitional exclusions from hearsay where the statement is not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The first three state of mind categories are treated here as definitional exclusions from hearsay, the fourth is, strictly speaking, hearsay, but falls within the state of mind exception. 71 All four of these categories, as the label implies, involve statements that tend to prove the existence of a particular state of mind of a person. Basically, a state of mind is, as the words suggest, what is in a person's head. Since we cannot see what is in a person's mind, we can only know their state of mind by what they say and do. This exclusion is the evidentiary application of the maxim "actions speak louder than words." Thus, it makes sense that we should consider evidence (words, conduct, or both) reflecting an individual's state of mind to be statements.
Note that in order for the definitional exclusions for state of mind (or the exception) to be used to admit evidence, the state of mind must be relevant. That is, under the analysis of the first three steps, we must have concluded that the pertinent state of mind is a fact of consequence to the outcome of the case.
Usually, evidence of state of mind is probative of what is in the mind of the person who makes utterances or engages in conduct that manifests the claimed state of mind. However, in the first exclusion for state of mind of the auditor, the acts or utterances of one person are claimed to create or affect the state of mind of another, who hears the utterance or observes the conduct. A wonderful example of this exclusion 72 is the case of Subramaniam v. Public Prosecutor, 73 in which Subramaniam, a rubber tapper in Malaya, was found guilty of being in possession of ammunition in violation of government regulations. 74 In his defense he asserted that "he had been captured by terrorists, [and] at all times was acting under duress." 75 He sought to give evidence of what the terrorists said to him but was prevented from doing so. 76 On appeal, the court held that the evidence was not hearsay because it was offered, not to prove the truth of the statement, but "the fact it was made" to show that it might "reasonably have induced in him [the appellant] an apprehension of instant death if he failed to conform to their wishes." 77 In other words, the evidence of the statement was admissible to show its effect upon the appellant, the auditor of the statement. Other examples include being put on notice or having knowledge; 78 showing motive; 79 or showing how the information that one possessed had a bearing on the reasonableness, good faith or voluntariness of that person's subsequent conduct. 80 For example, this information includes claimed grounds for fear of the victim asserted by the accused in a homicide claim of self-defense based on reasonable apprehension of danger. 81
Another matter of passing concern in connection with this type of evidence, as well as other types of evidence, is where the evidence may be admissible for one purpose but inadmissible for another. For instance, a defendant in a homicide case may claim that he heard reports that the victim was a violent man, having attacked and killed or injured others. This evidence would be admissible to prove that the defendant was in fear of the victim to support the defendant's claim of self-defense. However, the evidence would not be admissible to prove that the victim in fact was a violent person. This result usually poses no difficult problem. Generally, the evidence would be admitted with an instruction to limit its use to the proper purpose, unless the need for such evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of its improper use (or, as it has been colorfully stated, if the jury cannot forget that they were shown a blue horse). 82
C. State of Mind of the Declarant (Circumstantial Evidence
of State of Mind)
[Illustrative Questions: 2, 15, 32, 33, 34, 74, 87, 102, 118]
If a woman were to tell her husband that she has been having an affair with another man, the utterance, by the mere fact it was made, shows that the woman has lost affection for her husband. If offered for that purpose, then the utterance would not be hearsay. The words spoken need not be true to prove that affection is lacking. She need not in fact be having an affair; saying such a thing to one's spouse demonstrates a lack of affection. 83 On the other hand, if the wife said, "I have lost my affection for you," that utterance is a direct assertion of her state of mind. Such an assertion is a statement, and thus hearsay.
Another example of such circumstantial state of mind utterances is in the area of manifestations of mental incompetency. Evidence that a woman whose mental capacity was in question said, "I am the Pope," would probably be admitted as proof of her lack of capacity. 84 As McCormick notes, such an utterance "is offered as a response to environment, not to prove anything that may be asserted and is not hearsay." 85 As with the previous example, if the speaker said "I believe I am the Pope," the utterance would be assertive and would be hearsay. 86 This subcategory of exclusion from the hearsay definition as a statement not offered for the truth of the matter asserted (NOTMA) is probably no different from nonassertive conduct discussed previously. 87 In fact, analytically this category is not offered for the truth of the matter asserted because the mere fact of the words having been uttered is circumstantial proof of a fact, just like the situation with nonassertive conduct. Also, just as with nonassertive conduct, the reason the utterance tends to prove the fact for which it is offered is that the utterance illustrates the declarant's belief in a condition necessary to support the inference that proves the point. 88 But, for the sake of ease of identification, it is wise to note this subcategory of exclusion and to carve it out.
D. State of Mind (Knowledge) of the Declarant on the "Traces of the Mind" Theory
This classification is another subcategory that is actually a species of circumstantial evidence. As with the last state of mind exclusion, carving out this class of utterances should make analysis easier. The focus of this subcategory is evidence of utterances that circumstantially prove the content of the declarant's mind in the form of knowledge, usually of particular facts, as opposed to memory or belief or other thoughts. The reasoning is circumstantial in this instance, as it is in the nonassertive categories, and is as follows: A person having peculiar knowledge, under certain circumstances, could only have obtained that knowledge by contact with an external reality giving the person that knowledge. Thus, having the knowledge supports the conclusion that the declarant in fact had contact with that external reality. One should note that the external reality must be proven by evidence other than that contained in the utterance of the declarant. Two examples will clarify this exclusion.
First, McCormick refers to "evidence that a person made statements indicating knowledge of matters likely to have been known only to X" to prove that the declarant was in fact X. 89 Another example is the oft-cited case of Bridges v. State, 90 discussed at length in McCormick when stating the "trace" of the mind or "knowledge" theory. 91 In Bridges, the defendant was charged with child molestation. 92 At his trial, the state sought to introduce evidence of statements of the victim, a child of seven, describing to her mother and a police officer several exterior and interior details of the house in which she was allegedly assaulted. 93 Other evidence showed that this description perfectly matched the house and room where the defendant lived. 94 Therefore, the utterances were held not within the hearsay ban, but rather as a " 'trace,' as it were, on her mind of her visit at the time of the crime." 95 Said another way, the evidence is offered to show the impression that some alleged external reality made upon the mind of the declarant, to prove that declarant perceived (or experienced) the external reality.
In reasoning that the "trace" of the mind theory did in fact apply in Bridges, McCormick states as follows: While it has been suggested that the evidence depended for its value upon the observation, memory, and veracity of the child, and thus shared the hazards of hearsay, the testimony nevertheless had value independently of these factors. Other witnesses had described the physical characteristics of the locale, and her testimony was not relied upon for that purpose. Once other possible sources of her knowledge were eliminated, which the court was satisfied was the case, the only remaining inference was that she had acquired that knowledge through a visit to the premises. 96 As noted previously, 97 the fact that the evidence may be admissible for one purpose but inadmissible for another may be handled by a limiting instruction and the balancing test of Federal Rule of Evidence 403.
E. Evidence That is Otherwise Not Offered for the Truth of
the Matter Asserted (NOTMA)
[Illustrative Questions: 5, 14, 50, 61, 64, 81, 85, 111, 112, 115, 117, 122]
When analyzing evidence to determine whether or not it is hearsay, one should keep in mind that not all evidence, even oral evidence, is hearsay. It is only hearsay when the evidence is of a statement made by an out-of-court declarant and is offered in court to prove the truth of the matter contained in the statement. Thus, much evidence may be found not to be hearsay merely because the evidence is not offered for the truth of a statement.
A wonderful example of this comes from a dispute over whether a person is dead or alive. In such an instance, an utterance by that person, whatever the content of the statement might be, is evidence that the person is alive, without the statement having to be true. 98 This result, of course stems from the fact that dead people cannot talk.
One must remember that all of the subcategories discussed in this section are particularized instances of utterances that are not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. They may be conveniently classified into subgroups because the type of circumstance in which they arise recurs with enough frequency to warrant separate treatment. However, they are merely examples, or instances of evidence in the form of words or conduct, or a combination of words and conduct, which is relevant without being offered for the truth of the content.
7. If the evidence of the statement is hearsay (i.e.,
offered for the truth of the matter asserted), is the statement within an exemption from
or exception to the hearsay rule?
[Illustrative Questions: 51, 53, 54, 59, 70, 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 96, 97, 101, 104, 109]
Even if evidence is in the form of a statement that is only logically relevant if offered for the truth of the matter asserted, the statement may nonetheless be admissible if it is within an exception to the hearsay rule. So far only exclusions arising from the very definition of hearsay have been considered here. Under this present step, or question, the evidence has already been determined to be hearsay under analysis of the first five questions. Exceptions to the hearsay rule were developed over many years as legal commentators realized that many statements arise that, though hearsay, overcome basic hearsay risks, or for some other policy reason should be admitted into evidence. To consider in depth the rationale, policy and extent of the hearsay rule and its exceptions is beyond the scope of this Article. 99 But completing the process requires a determination whether the evidence which is being examined is within an exception to the hearsay rule. Thus, reviewing and applying one or more of the accepted exceptions to the hearsay rule is step number seven.
The Federal Rules of Evidence create two categories of exceptions to the hearsay rules in Rules 803 and 804(b). 100 The exceptions in Rule 803 apply whether the declarant is available or not; those listed in Rule 804 only apply if the declarant is unavailable. 101 Twenty-three specific exceptions listed in Rule 803 and four specific exceptions listed in Rule 804(b) exist. 102 In addition, Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) provide for a category of "other exceptions," sometimes known as the "equivalency," "catch-all," or "residual" exceptions. 103 Essentially, these "other exceptions" categories apply in unusual cases where the evidence does not quite fit into one of the traditional exceptions; yet, the evidence is very probative and necessary and has substantial guarantees of trustworthiness. Whether these "catch-all" exceptions should be liberally or strictly construed has been the subject of wide variation in the federal courts. 104
In addition, the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 801(d) exempts from the definition of hearsay two major categories of evidence treated as exceptions to the hearsay rule at common law. These exemptions are certain kinds of prior statements of witnesses and admissions by a party opponent. Although they are classified under the Federal Rules of Evidence as definitional exemptions, this article recommends that they be treated analytically as hearsay to avoid confusion. In other words, one should analyze prior statements of witnesses and admissions as statements under Rule 801(a) and as offered for the truth of the matter asserted under 801(c). Then one should consider whether 801(d) provides for admissibility as an exemption from the hearsay rule.
8. If the statement is not admissible under a traditional exemption from or exception to the hearsay rule, is it admissible under a catch-all exception (Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5))?
Steps five through seven dealt with the mechanical, usually noncontroversial applications of the hearsay rule and the traditional exceptions to and exemptions from that rule. Answering this, the eighth question, requires knowledge and understanding of the basic policy considerations that underlie the hearsay rules. Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) are residual, "catch-all" exceptions, enacted by Congress to promote the "growth and development of the law of evidence in the hearsay area" 105 so that "the general purposes of these rules and the interests of justice" 106 will be served. Such language invites and necessitates policy-based analysis and argument. As discussed previously, 107 the hearsay rule and its exceptions and exemptions are based on this rationale: Out-of-court statements are of suspect trustworthiness and probative value because the declarant was not under oath at the time the statement was made, and the declarant's perception, demeanor and veracity are not subject to cross-examination in front of a jury that can judge the credibility and weight to be given to the statement. The exceptions are based on the theory that some types of statements, because of the circumstances under which they are made, are sufficiently trustworthy and of such probative value that the risks of using hearsay are outweighed by the trier of fact's need to consider the evidence if a just and reliable result is to be obtained. 108 Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) are expressions of these theories.
The controversy over these residual exceptions centers mainly on how narrowly Congress intended them to be construed, since Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) were innovative when enacted and the parameters still are not known. The legislative history suggests they should be given a narrow scope. The House originally rejected these exceptions. 109 The Senate adopted them and its views prevailed in Conference. 110 But the Senate Judiciary Committee's notes contain this caveat: "It is intended that the residual exceptions will be used very rarely and only in exceptional circumstances. The committee does not intend to establish a broad license for trial judges to admit hearsay statements that do not fall within one of the other exceptions in rule 803 and 804(b)." 111
The language of Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) lays out five requirements for admission of a hearsay statement that does not fall within a traditional exception. These requirements are: (1) "circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness" that are "equivalent" to those underlying the other exceptions; (2) the statement is offered as evidence of a material fact (apparently, this excludes its use on collateral matters such as impeachment); (3) the statement is more probative on the issue for which it is offered than other reasonably available evidence; (4) the general purposes of [the] rules and the interests of justice will be served; and (5) sufficient advance notice, including the declarant's name and address, of the intention to use the statement is given the adverse party to allow that party "a fair opportunity to meet it" 112 (presumably, this statement means an opportunity both to oppose the admission of the statement and to counteract its effects if admitted).
The case law supporting these exceptions at the time of their adoption is sketchy. Both the advisory committee's notes to 803(24), 113 and the Senate Judiciary notes, 114 refer to the pre-Federal Rules of Evidence case of Dallas County v. Commercial Union Assurance Co., 115 as a good example of the anticipated application of the residual exceptions. In that case, the county was suing its insurance company over structural damage sustained by the county courthouse, which the plaintiff alleged was caused by a fire started by lightning. 116 The defendant contended that the damage antedated the lightning strike and thus was not covered by the casualty policy sold by defendant. 117 To support this contention, the defendant offered a local newspaper account, over fifty years old, of a fire that had occurred during the construction of the courthouse. 118 The plaintiff argued that the newspaper account, clearly hearsay (it was offered to prove the fact of the earlier fire), did not fall within either the business records (803(6)) or ancient documents (803(16)) exceptions. 119
The appellate court held that admission was nonetheless proper because it was highly improbable that a small-town newspaper reporter would fabricate such a story. 120 This result constitutes the "equivalent circumstantial guarantee of trustworthiness" required by the present rules. 121 The evidence was highly probative of a material fact - the cause of the damage to the courthouse - and was likely more probative than calling witnesses to testify about their memories of a relatively unremarkable fire that occurred more than fifty years before. 122 Finally, it was in "the interests of justice" 123 that the jury should hear the statement (the account in the paper) and evaluate its weight because the story would not likely inflame or confuse the jury.
A leading post-Federal Rules of Evidence case applying the residual exceptions is United States v. Leslie. 124 The defendant's accomplices had given testimony exonerating the accused. 125 The prosecution sought to impeach this testimony with incriminating statements made by the accomplices at the time of their arrest. 126 The appellate court held that the prior statements were admissible as substantive evidence (for the truth of the matter asserted, i.e., the defendant's guilt), despite not being made under oath as required by Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(A). 127 The statements were found sufficiently trustworthy because they were made after a valid waiver of Miranda rights, they were close in time to the events in question, and the declarants were on the stand. 128 The statements of the defendant's accomplices were also highly probative. 129
Grand jury testimony, not subject to cross-examination and thus not within 804(b)(1), is an area with conflicting case law. One court rejected the use of grand jury testimony at trial under the residual exceptions because the prosecutor's use of leading questions and high-pressure tactics at the grand jury proceedings made the statement's reliability questionable. 130 In different factual settings, however, the statements have been admitted. 131 A major issue surrounding the use of the residual exceptions is whether statements that just miss falling within a traditional exception can nonetheless be admitted under Rules 803(24) or 804(b)(5). In a leading federal trial court decision, Zenith Radio Corp. v. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., 132 the judge decided that Congress intended the residual exceptions to be used only in "exceptional and unanticipated" situations, and therefore should not be used in most "near miss" cases. 133 The Zenith court drew a distinction between "well-defined" traditional exceptions and "amorphous" ones, however, and opined that "near misses" in the latter situations could be admissible. 134 The Third Circuit rejected this formulation because it "puts the federal evidence rules back into the straitjacket from which the residual exceptions were intended to free them." 135 The status of the near miss doctrine was recently summarized by Professor Myrna Raeder: "Although many judges cannot recognize a near miss when they see it, those who can do not hesitate to apply the residual clauses to evidence that the drafters specifically considered and rejected. The rare language supporting the near miss theory is either in dicta 136 or has been overruled." 137 The availability of the declarant, or an "equivalent" witness, to testify at trial is also an important factor. Obviously, the declarant's unavailability is an express condition to the use of 804(b)(5). The "unavailability" criterion may be injected into 803(24) without separate explanation by the requirement that the statement be more probative on the issue than other reasonably available evidence. If the declarant is available to testify, the argument is that the declarant's live testimony is more probative than an out-of-court, hearsay statement. 138 Courts have also held that the availability of other, comparable witnesses, precludes the use of Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5). 139 These areas must be discussed in an analysis of Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) policy-based argument is mandated. First, focus on the circumstances surrounding the declarant when the statement was made. Look for "circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness." Does the situation lend peculiar reliability to the statement? Does any bias or vested interest exist that would undermine the declarant's veracity? Please note that the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Idaho v. Wright specifically held that corroboration is not a factor to be considered when evaluating trustworthiness for confrontation clause challenges. 140 Thus, even if the federal courts were to consider corroboration in deciding trustworthiness under the catchalls, the courts would be in awkward position if the same evidence could not be introduced in a criminal case when the same court eliminates corroboration from its trustworthiness evaluation for confrontation clause purposes. 141
Second, measure the statement's probative value on a material issue against other available evidence. Is the issue for which the statement is offered in serious dispute? If so, how probative is the statement (i.e., how much does it tend to prove the proposition)? What other evidence is available to the proponent?
Third, consider the availability of the declarant, or comparable witnesses, to testify. Actually, this consideration falls under the "more probative than other available evidence" requirement. Is a witness, who can be subpoenaed, available who can testify to the events referred to in the hearsay statements? Is there a peculiar significance to the statement that may permit its introduction even though "equivalent" live testimony can be obtained? Did either party contribute to the unavailability of the declarant to testify? Accordingly, this suggested analysis is heavily fact-dependent. No one knows the exact parameters of Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5). In contrast to the known, traditional exceptions, where the preconditions to admissibility are known and the proponent merely must show that the statement was made under those circumstantial preconditions, the residual exceptions allow the proponent to both delineate the preconditions that justify the exception (guarantees of trustworthiness) and show how the particular statement meets the test. This result is simply creating a new exception.
The final step in answering this question is to show how the proposed exception would promote "the interests of justice." Should the jury be allowed to hear the statement because a just verdict would be questionable in its absence? How "fair" is it to all parties? Remember, no conclusion is wrong under Rules 803(24) and 804(b)(5) if one analyzes the facts and advances a plausible argument as to why the statement should or should not be admissible. In June, 1990, the United States Supreme Court held that Idaho's residual hearsay exception nearly identical to Federal Rule 803(24) was not a firmly rooted exception for Confrontation Clause purposes. In Idaho v. Wright, 142 the Court held that hearsay statements of a child allegedly molested by the defendant could not be admitted within the state's residual hearsay exception without violating defendant's Confrontation Clause rights. 143 This ruling underscores the necessity of coordinating the analysis under the catch-alls with the confrontation clause analysis in a criminal case.
9. In a criminal prosecution, is admission of the hearsay statement forbidden by the Confrontation Clause or required by the Due Process Clause under Chambers v. Mississippi?
A. Confrontation Clause
A literal reading of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees criminal defendants the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against" them, 144 would exclude any use of hearsay statements against the defendant. After all, when a hearsay statement is admitted for the truth of its contents, the declarant is either unavailable to testify by definition (Rule 804), or may be absent (Rule 803 exceptions apply without regard to availability), and thus the defendant cannot "confront" the declarant-witness.
In the case of Ohio v. Roberts, the Supreme Court rejected this interpretation as "unintended and too extreme." 145 The Court held: In sum, when a hearsay declarant is not present for cross-examination at trial, the Confrontation Clause normally requires a showing that he is unavailable. Even then, his statement is admissible only if it bears adequate "indicia of reliability." Reliability can be inferred without more in a case where the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception. In other cases, the evidence must be excluded, at least absent a showing of particularized guarantees of trustworthiness. 146
One may have noticed some overlap between this language and the analysis under question eight regarding the residual hearsay exceptions, e.g., "particularized guarantees of trustworthiness;" a "showing that [the declarant] is unavailable," and "indicia reliability." In a prior case, the Court rejected the theory "that the overlap [between hearsay evidentiary rules and the constitutional right] is complete and that the confrontation clause is nothing more or less than a codification of the rules of hearsay ... as they existed at common law." 147 For all of Justice White's protestations in that case, one should note that in practice many statements that are admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence will likely be admissible under the Confrontation Clause.
However, the rule laid down in Roberts 148 appeared to have added a requirement that the prosecution must show that the declarant was unavailable before a hearsay statement was admissible. 149 In Roberts, the Ohio prosecution had introduced preliminary hearing testimony of the witness against the accused. 150 The United States Supreme Court found sufficient indicia of reliability in that testimony to satisfy its newly fashioned Confrontation Clause test, but with the required showing of unavailability satisfied. 151 However, Rule 803 exceptions and Rule 801(d)(2) exemptions apply without regard to declarant's availability to testify at trial.
Thus the Court, in United States v. Inadi 152 had to face the argument that the confrontation clause requires a showing of unavailability even though Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) does not. In Inadi, the defendant argued that the government must, under the principles of Roberts, demonstrate that the defendant's alleged co-conspirators, whose statements were sought to be used against the defendant under 801(d)(2)(E), were unavailable to testify before admission of their statements was proper. 153 The Court rejected that argument, holding that "Roberts cannot fairly be read to stand for the radical proposition that no out-of-court statement can be introduced by the government without a showing that the declarant is unavailable." 154 The Court reasoned that co-conspirators' out-of-court statements, unlike former testimony, are not "only a weaker substitute for live testimony"; 155 rather, such co-conspirators' statements, have "independent evidentiary significance," 156 "derive much of their value from the fact they are made in a context very different from trial," 157 and are "usually irreplaceable as substantive evidence." 158 Finally, the Court engaged in a benefits and burdens analysis in concluding that such statements are admissible without a showing of unavailability. 159
A number of important questions were left unanswered by Inadi. First, when, if ever, does the Confrontation Clause require a showing of unavailability before an out-of-court declarant's statement, (other than those of co-conspirators) may be admitted at trial? Further, what is the relationship, if any, between the finding of reliability for satisfaction of the hearsay exceptions or exemptions and the finding of reliability for Confrontation Clause purposes? The Inadi Court used a reliability standard 160 to decide whether an unavailability rule for Confrontation Clause purposes should exist, while the Roberts Court utilized a reliability standard to answer Confrontation Clause questions, assuming a showing of unavailability. In Bourjaily v. United States, 161 decided the year after Inadi, the Supreme Court again considered the admissibility of co-conspirators' statements over a claim of confrontation clause violation. Bourjaily argued that the "bootstrapping" 162 effect of considering the questioned co-conspirators' statements in order to decide whether to admit the same statements, caused the modern co-conspirators' exemption under the Federal Rules of Evidence not to be a "firmly rooted" exception to the hearsay rule. 163 The result would be to require a finding of indicia of reliability in the questioned statement independent of the statement being qualified under the Federal Rules exemption. In Bourjaily, the Court held that the second prong of Roberts, independent indicia of reliability, was "not mandated by the Constitution," 164 since the "co-conspirator exception [sic] to the hearsay rule is firmly enough rooted in our jurisprudence...[to meet the test] under this Court's ruling in Roberts...." 165
Most recently, the United States Supreme Court considered the rules laid down in Roberts and Inadi as they relate to other "firmly rooted" exceptions to the hearsay rule. In White v. Illinois, 166 the Court rejected the appellant's assertion that Roberts required a declarant be produced at trial or be found unavailable before his out of court statement is admissible, unless the testimony was being introduced under the co-conspirator exception under Inadi. The White Court stated that the testimony, which had been admitted at trial under both the spontaneous declarations and statements made for medical treatments exceptions, was admissible because it had sufficient guarantees of reliability and trustworthiness to satisfy the Confrontation Clause. 167 As in Inadi, the statements at issue were made in a context that could not be replicated in court. 168 Further, little benefit was to be gained by requiring availability. 169 Because the testimony was considered admissible under "firmly rooted" hearsay exceptions, the statements satisfied the Inadi criteria. 170
White thus appears to establish the rule that Inadi implied; that the Confrontation Clause is satisfied so long as the proffered hearsay testimony comes within a firmly rooted exception. The question then becomes what qualifies as "firmly rooted." What remains to be seen is whether a showing of unavailability is necessary for all of the exceptions under Federal Rule 803 171 (excluding the catchalls under 803(24)), or whether the list is limited to common law exceptions in existence before the Federal Rules. 172 Although all of the exceptions listed in Rule 803 of the Federal Rules of Evidence have not been specifically addressed, the exceptions for evidence considered business records 173, excited utterances, 174 statements for medical diagnosis, 175 have been recognized by several courts to be "firmly rooted" for Confrontation Clause purposes, and therefore outside the reach of Roberts' unavailability requirement. Furthermore, over the years, lower courts that have had an opportunity to address the issue of unavailability in for the purposes of the Confrontation Clause, have tended to limit the applicability of Roberts to its facts. 176
In the recent case of Idaho v. Wright, 177 the United States Supreme Court considered questions relating to catch-all exceptions, unavailability requirements and Confrontation Clause complaints, in relation to hearsay evidence admitted against a defendant in a child molestation case. The Wright Court reaffirmed the principles set forth in Roberts and Inadi, and elucidated in Bourjaily. 178 Since the trial court had found the child declarant in Wright incapable of communicating with the jury, no issue existed regarding the required showing of unavailability. 179 The Wright Court then considered whether the hearsay had been admitted under a firmly rooted hearsay exception. 180 The child's statements regarding the molestation incident, made to a pediatrician, had been admitted under Idaho's residual exception that was identical to Federal Rule 803(24). 181 The Court specifically noted that "Idaho's residual hearsay exception...is not a firmly rooted hearsay exception for Confrontation Clause purposes." 182
Thus, the Court moved to the second prong of the Roberts test, and determined that the state had not borne its burden of showing "particularized guarantees of trustworthiness" in the child's statements. 183 Although the Court affirmed the Idaho Supreme Court's reversal of the accused's conviction, the Wright Court held that the particularized guarantees of trustworthiness must be assessed from a totality of the circumstances but limited to those circumstances "that surround the making of the statement and that render the declarant particularly worthy of belief." 184 As mentioned previously, the Wright court also held that corroboration was not a factor to be considered in deciding trustworthiness for confrontation clause challenges. 185 In United States v. Flores, 186 the Fifth Circuit explained that corroborating evidence was excluded as a factor in determining the reliability of a hearsay statement for confrontation clause purposes because the "rationale for allowing exceptions to the hearsay rule is that the statement offered is free enough from risk of inaccuracy and untrustworthiness, so that the test of cross-examination would be a work of supererogation.'" 187 Thus while the residual hearsay exceptions may allow the use of corroborating evidence to show the reliability of a statement, such evidence inappropriate for determining reliability in confrontation clause challenges. 188
Thus, under these rulings, if one determines that a statement is admissible under a traditional hearsay exception or exemption, then the constitutional rules may be satisfied, unless the evidence is admissible under the catchalls. Notwithstanding the similar language of the residual exceptions, 803(24) and 804(b)(5), and the constitutional rules laid down in the Roberts-Inadi-Wright-White line of cases, no overlap arises between the two, so that a statement that satisfies the residual exceptions' admission standards will not necessarily satisfy the Roberts rule. 189 Moreover, although statements falling within traditional hearsay exceptions or exemptions, which could be deemed "firmly rooted," and would not require a showing of independent indicia of reliability (particularized guarantees of trustworthiness), it remains to be seen which such categories of statements have no required showing of unavailability.
Confrontation Clause problems arise especially with Rule 804 exceptions, particularly when prior testimony of an unavailable declarant is sought to be introduced under 804(b)(1). Again, Rule 804 exceptions apply only if the declarant is unavailable, as defined in Rule 804(a). The Supreme Court's rulings appear to mandate a stronger showing of unavailability when a criminal defendant's confrontation rights are at issue.
In Barber v. Page, 190 the Court found a Confrontation Clause violation where prior testimony of a declarant, who was imprisoned in another state, was admitted at trial. 191 Under Rule 804(a)(5), a declarant is unavailable if his presence at the proceeding cannot be obtained "by process or other reasonable means." 192 The declarant in Barber was not subject to compulsory process since he was in another state. 193 However, the Court held that the prosecutor could have secured the declarant's presence by other means and that failure to do so was short of the necessary "good faith" effort. 194 In a criminal case, therefore, the declarant's unavailability under Rule 804 must be real, not strategic or feigned.
The other consideration under the Confrontation Clause and the use of prior testimony is the defendant's opportunity to cross-examine the declarant at the prior hearing. Under Rule 804(b)(1), "the party against whom the testimony is now offered" (the defendant) must have "had an opportunity and similar motive to develop the testimony by direct, cross, or redirect examination." 195 This formulation appears to satisfy the Court's interpretation of the confrontation clause as well. Dicta in the Roberts decision strongly hinted that the Court would find a meaningful "opportunity to ... develop the testimony" by the defendant sufficient to satisfy the Confrontation Clause even if actual questioning by the defendant was not undertaken. 196 But the Court has never expressly adopted that rule.
The defendant must have a meaningful chance to develop the testimony, however. In Pointer v. Texas, 197 the Court held the defendant's rights were violated because he was not represented by counsel at the prior hearing and therefore could not have effectively cross-examined the declarant. 198
A final consideration exists: State rules of evidence that allow wider use of statements by unavailable declarants than do the Federal Rules may face strict judicial scrutiny. In Douglas v. Alabama, 199 the trial court allowed the state to use a confession by the defendant's alleged accomplice which incriminated the defendant. 200 Such a statement would not be admissible against the defendant under the Federal Rules. The Court rejected its use under Alabama's law of evidence as well, since the declarant had exercised his Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify and thus the defendant never had any opportunity to examine the declarant. 201
B. Is the Statement's Admission Required Under the Due Process Clause (Chambers v. Mississippi)?
This final question (or second part of the final question) has more of an academic than practical significance; this step is included in this guide for academic purposes. It is important to understand that the Supreme Court's decision in Chambers v. Mississippi 202 would not have been necessary had Mississippi been using the Federal Rules of Evidence in 1973. In Chambers, the Court held that the defendant's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated because highly reliable and probative hearsay statements that impliedly exonerated the accused were excluded from evidence. 203 Chambers had been convicted of killing a police officer; the primary evidence against him was that the dying officer had fired down an alley where gunfire had originated, wounding the defendant, who was then arrested. 204 The defendant sought to prove that Gable McDonald had shot Officer Liberty. 205 McDonald had signed a sworn confession of his guilt; he later repudiated it, saying he had been influenced by promises that he would not be prosecuted. 206 This evidence was admitted when McDonald testified at trial. 207
The defendant then sought to have McDonald declared an adverse witness so that he could be cross-examined as to other statements McDonald had made which incriminated him. 208 The trial court refused because McDonald's repudiations of his confession did not directly "point the finger" at Chambers and thus was not technically adverse. 209 Under Mississippi law at that time, the "party voucher" rule prevented the defendant from cross-examining McDonald, since the defendant had called McDonald to the stand. 210 Thus, extrinsic evidence that would discredit McDonald's story that he had fabricated the confession could not be introduced. 211 Federal Rule of Evidence 607 abolished the party voucher rule.
The defendant's attempts to introduce McDonald's incriminating statements through the testimony of the persons to whom the statements were made were thwarted because of the hearsay rule. 212 Mississippi law allowed against- interest statements into evidence only if the statement was adverse to the declarant's pecuniary or proprietary interests. Once again, the statements would have been admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3), which includes statements contrary to penal interest. The end result was that the only evidence Chambers managed to get to the jury was "a single written confession countered by an arguably acceptable renunciation," 213 and he was convicted.
The Supreme Court reversed on due process grounds:
We conclude that the exclusion of this critical evidence, coupled with the State's refusal to permit Chambers to cross-examine McDonald, denied him a trial in accord with the traditional and fundamental standards of due process. In reaching this judgment, we establish no new principles of constitutional law. Nor does our holding signal any diminution in the respect traditionally accorded to the States in the establishment and implementation of their own criminal trial rules and procedures. Rather, we hold quite simply that under the facts and circumstances of this case the rulings of the trial court deprived Chambers of a fair trial. 214
It is difficult to know what application Chambers may have. It is nearly inconceivable that a due process violation could occur under the Federal Rules of Evidence, which are steadily being adopted in the states (including Mississippi). One should at least be aware that such a result has occurred and is a good argument for abandoning the archaic party voucher rule.
The Supreme Court recently revisited their decision in Chambers in Montana v. Egelhoff. 215 In a criminal trial for two counts of deliberate homicide, the jury was told that the defendant's intoxication could not be considered in determining whether the he possessed the requisite mental state for the crimes. 216 The Supreme Court of Montana reversed the conviction on appeal, holding that the respondent had a constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to have the jury consider all relevant evidence presented as a defense to rebut the governments evidence on all of the elements of the crime, and that evidence of the defendant's intoxication was "clearly relevant" to the issue of whether he acted with the requisite mens rea. 217 The Supreme Court of Montana cited Chambers, in support of their holding that the Due Process clause mandates the admission of all relevant evidence.
In reversing the Supreme Court of Montana, the Supreme Court distinguished Chambers from the instant case, stating that, "Chambers was an exercise in highly case-specific error correction." 218 The Court clarifies their position in Chambers by stating that the "holding in Chambers if one can be discerned from such a fact-intensive case is certainly not that a defendant is denied a 'fair opportunity to defend against the State's accusations' whenever, 'critical evidence' favorable to him is excluded, but rather that erroneous evidentiary rulings can, in combination, rise to the level of a due process violation." 219
This concludes the analysis of hearsay and relevance using this introductory nine-step guide. Use of it as a process will yield an answer on admissibility that should square with the prevailing standards under the Federal Rules of Evidence as interpreted by the courts.
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