Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Opinion Of Interest: First Circuit Notes That Statement Against Interest Exception Covers Statements Against The Declarant's 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.
And, as the text of this Rule and the recent opinion of the First Circuit in United States v. Figueroa-Cartagena, 2010 WL 2794368 (1st Cir. 201), make clear, the key to this Rule is that the statement be againt the declarant's interest, not that it be against the defendant's interest.
In Figueroa-Cartagena, Neliza Figueroa-Cartagena was found guilty of aiding and abetting a carjacking that resulted in death, conspiring to commit that carjacking, and aiding and abetting the carriage or use of a firearm during the carjacking. Her alleged co-conspirators were Félix Gabriel Castro-Davis and Félix Alberto Castro-Davis.
At trial, the prosecution introduced into evidence the recording of a telephone conversation between Alberto Castro-Davis and his mother:
Alberto: I saw the sworn statement.
Mother: Yes, the police told me.
Alberto: Yeah? That bitch is going to fuck us over. We can't talk too much through here, either.
Mother: They told me that she talked really bad-that she was talking about ...
Alberto: I saw the sworn statement, that's all I have to say. I went to court yesterday.
After she was convicted, Neliza appealed, claiming, inter alia, that this recording contained inadmissible hearsay and that the district court erred in deeming the conversation admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) because "nothing in the phone conversation was against her (Neliza's) penal interest." The First Circuit easily and correctly turned this argument aside, finding that this was
not the relevant inquiry....Rule 804(b)(3) requires the district court to ask whether the statement at issue "so far tended to subject the declarant" -in this case, Alberto-"to...criminal liability...that a reasonable person in the declarant's position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true."