EvidenceProf Blog

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News: Court Of Appeals Of Iowa Notes That Rule 803(4) Covers Exculpatory Statements

Like its federal counterpart, Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.803(4) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

Statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment and describing medical history, or past or present symptoms, pain, or sensations, or the inception or general character of the cause or external source thereof insofar as reasonably pertinent to diagnosis or treatment.

But does Rule 5.803(4) only apply to inculpatory statements? That was the surprising conclusion reached by an Iowa trial court and correctly reversed by the Supreme Court of Iowa in its recent opinion in State v. Hanes, 2010 WL 4539192 (Iowa 2010).

In Hanes,

Robert Hanes was convicted...of willful injury causing serious injury....The verdict [wa]s based on an incident between Hanes and Nathanial Taylor....According to Taylor, he was walking to a cigar store to redeem bottles and cans. Taylor claims one week earlier Hanes had given him $2.25 to purchase gizzards for Hanes, and Taylor did not purchase the gizzards or return the money. Hanes asked about the money and was angry and yelling. Taylor offered Hanes his cans, but Hanes pulled out a knife and said "I'm going to kill you" and "stabbed [Taylor] in the face." Taylor then grabbed Hanes's hand holding the knife, hit Hanes in the head, and kicked Hanes until Hanes said "stop." Hanes picked up a bottle of whiskey and walked into the park.

Hanes claimed he did not know Taylor and encountered him while walking home. Hanes testified Taylor struck him with the bag of cans and bottles, and Hanes struck back. Hanes testified he was defending himself, and he had previous boxing experience.

At trial, Hanes called the nurse practitioner who treated him, leading to the following exchange:

Q. Okay. And when Mr. Hanes presented himself, your hospital-to your hospital, what was his complaints?

A. Mr. Hanes' complaint is that he had been hit-

[Prosecutor] Objection, Your Honor, to the hearsay.

[Defense] Purposes of medical treatment, Your Honor.

The Court: It's still-If it's-it's subject to that exception, but it's not admissible because it would be exculpatory.

After Hanes was convicted, claiming, inter alia, that the nurse practitioner's testimony should have been admitted under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.803(4). The Supreme Court of Iowa found that the trial court improperly focused upon the proposed testimony being exculpatory, finding that statements made for purposes of treatment or diagnosis

are admissible, regardless of whether they are exculpatory or inculpatory, if they fit within the two-part test this court has adopted. The two-part test requires the proponent of the statement to show: (1) the declarant's motive in making the statement is consistent with the purposes of promoting treatment, and (2) the content of the statement must be such as is reasonably relied on by a physician in treatment or diagnosis.

The court then noted that it was likely that the nurse practitioner's testimony would have qualified for admission under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.803(4) but that it was impossible to tell because Hanes did not make an offer of proof. That said, based upon other errors committed by the trial court, the Supreme Court of Iowa was able to reverse Hanes' conviction.



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