EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Runaway Bride? Utah Court Faces Hearsay Questions In Anticipation of Bridenapping Trial

Things are heating up in anticipation of the highly publicized bridenapping case in Utah.  Lemuel and Julia Redd are accused of kidnapping their adult daughter, Julianna Myers, the day before she was to marry Perry Myers.  At a recent preliminary hearing, Julianna testified that after her parents picked her up to shop for wedding clothes, they kidnapped her against her will and took her to Grand Junction, Colorado so that she would not marry Perry.

The Redds' attorneys seek to introduce evidence that Perry is a media whore who influenced the claims and actions of others around him by making sensationalist claims to police and by pressuring Julianna to say that she was kidnapped.  Specifically, they have noted that Perry initially told police that Julianna's parents were simply trying to keep her from the wedding and that he wasn't concerned for her safety, but later changed his story and said that he was worried that it was a possible murder-suicide scenario.  Utah County attorney Curtis Larson has countered that any statements by Perry would constitute inadmissible hearsay.

It's difficult to say how the court will rule without knowing the specific statements by Perry at issue, but it appears that there are two ways in which defense counsel could argue that they are admissible.  Utah Rule of Evidence 801(c) defines hearsay as a statement "offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted."  Thus, for instance, if defense counsel tried to introduce statements by Perry that he didn't think that Julianna was kidnapped to prove that she, in fact, was not kidnapped, the statements would be indmissible hearsay. 

If, however, as the defendants' attorneys claim, they have evidence that Perry made statements to Julianna that were intended to pressure Julianna into saying that she was kidnapped, defense counsel would not be introducing those statements to prove that what Perry said was true, but instead to show their possible effect on Julianna, who might have thereafter lied in claiming that she was kidnapped.  The statements would thus not constitute hearsay.

On the other hand, if no such statements exist, if Perry testifies at trial, Utah Rule of Evidence 613 states that Perry could be impeached by his prior inconsistent statements.  Thus, for instance, if Perry testifies at trial that he always thought that Julianna was kidnapped and that he feared for her safety, defense counsel could use his prior statements to the contrary to impeach his testimony at trial.

-CM

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