EvidenceProf Blog

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

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Vice City: D.C. Court Of Appeals Finds Statement Susceptible To More Than One Interpretation Doesn't Qualify As Statement Against Interest

Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for 

A statement which was at the time of its making so far contrary to the declarant's pecuniary or proprietary interest, or so far tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability, or to render invalid a claim by the declarant against another, that a reasonable person in the declarant's position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true. A statement tending to expose the declarant to criminal liability and offered to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement.

In its 1979 opinion in Laumer v. United States, 409 A.2d 190, 197) (D.C. 1979), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted this statement against interest exception to the rule against hearsay. And in its recent opinion in Andrews v. United States, 2009 WL 2778391 (D.C. Cir. 2009), that court had to resolve whether a statement that is susceptible to more than one interpretation can qualify as a statement against interest. It answered that question in the negative. I disagree.

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September 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Extortion Is The Key: Superior Court Of Pennsylvania Decides That Extension of Credit By Extortionate Means Is A Crime Of Dishonesty Or False Statement

Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1) allows for the impeachment of criminal defendants through evidence of their felony convictions, even convictions not involving crimes of dishonesty or false statement, if their probative value outweighs their prejudicial effect to the accused. Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 609 is more restrictive. It only allows for the impeachment of witnesses through evidence of convictions for crimes involving dishonesty or false statement, making it similar to Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(2). Because of this fact, in its recent opinion in Commonwealth v. Cascardo, 2009 WL 2767327 (Pa.Super. 2009), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania had to determine whether the extension of credit by extortionate means is a crime involving dishonesty or false statement. And it answered that question in the affirmative.

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September 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

(Post) War Is Hell: Department Of Veterans Affairs Proposes Amendment To Make PTSD Claims By Veterans Easier To Prove

A big reason that I initially became interested in the law was the plight of my grandfather in the veterans affairs system. He came back from World War II and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Thereafter, he was engaged in another battle for years, this one involving his attempts to get the disease classified as war-induced so that his wife would be provided for and his children and grandchildren would have the educational opportunites that he was not afforded. He was ultimately successful, and I owe a great deal of where I am today to his tenacity. Therefore, I am certainly in support of measures that make it easier for veterans to receive disability benefits, which is why I applaud the effort of the Department of Veterans Affairs to amend its adjudication regulations governing service connection for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by liberalizing in some cases the evidentiary standard for establishing the required in-service stressor.

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September 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everybody's Watching CBS: Military Court Refuses To Recognize Reporter's Privilege In Haditha Massacre Appeal

All but two states have some type of reporter's privilege. Similarly, most federal courts have recognized some type of reporter's privilege as well. But what about military courts? Well, to this point, they haven't recognized a reporter's privilege, and that did not change with the recent opinion of the United States Navy-Marine Corps of Criminal Appeals in United States v. Wuterich, 2009 WL 2730890 (N.M.Ct.Crim.App. 2009). Reading between the lines of that opinion, however, I think that it is inevitable that military courts will eventually recognize some type of reporter's privilege.

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September 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rescue 911: Appeals Court Of Massachusetts Finds 911 Call To Be Nontestimonial, Admissible

Under what circumstances can a 911 call made by a non-testifying declarant be admissible against a criminal defendant despite his Sixth Amendment rights under the Confrontation Clause? It is a question that has received inconsistent answers by courts since the Supreme Court's opinion in Davis v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). But I think that the Appeals Court of Massachusetts did a good job of answering it in its recent opinion in Commonwealth v. Beatrice, 2009 WL 2634772 (Mass.App.Ct. 2009).

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September 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Requiem For Admission: Supreme Court Of New Hampshire Finds Evidence Of Defendant's Drug Addiction Admissible To Prove Motive To Steal

Like its federal counterpartNew Hampshire Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides that

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.

In its recent opinion in State v. Costello, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire had to answer of question of first impression under this Rule: Is evidence of a defendant's drug addicition admissible to prove a motive to steal?

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August 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Credible Witness?: Court Of Criminal Appeals Of Alabama Makes Seemingly Erroneous Rule 704 Ruling

Alabama Rule of Evidence 704 provides that

Testimony in the form of an opinion or inference otherwise admissible is to be excluded if it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact.  

Under this Rule, it is well established that "the credibility of a witness is a question solely for the jury's determination.” So, how could the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama explain its recent opinion in Foster v State, 2009 WL 2657615 (Ala.Crim.App. 2009)? The answer: It didn't.

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August 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)