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

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Monday, January 30, 2012

You And I: Supreme Court Of Maine Reverses Conviction Based On Improperly Admitted Hearsay

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

A statement that:

(A) a reasonable person in the declarant’s position would have made only if the person believed it to be true because, when made, it was so contrary to the declarant’s proprietary or pecuniary interest or had so great a tendency to invalidate the declarant’s claim against someone else or to expose the declarant to civil or criminal liability; and

(B) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate its trustworthiness, if it is offered in a criminal case as one that tends to expose the declarant to criminal liability.

Meanwhile, Maine's counterpart, Maine Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3), provides an exception 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 him to civil or criminal liability or to render invalid a claim by him against another or to make him an object of hatred, ridicule, or disgrace, that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the statement unless he believed it to be true. A statement tending to expose the declarant to criminal liability and offering to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement. A statement or confession offered against the accused in a criminal case, made by a codefendant or other person implicating both himself and the accused, is not within this exception. (emphasis added).

And what this last, bolded sentence of Maine Rule 804(b)(3) means is that the statement prompting the defendant's appeal in State v. Guyette, 2012 WL 182159 (Me. 2012), was clearly inadmissible.

In Guyette, Jesse Guyette was convicted of of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs. At Guyette's trial, Scott Drost, who was not a co-defendant of Guyette, invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege self-incrimination. Thereafter, pursuant to Maine Rule 804(b)(3), the prosecution introduced a recording of a phone call in which Dorst incriminated himself as well as Guyette.

After he was convicted, Guyette appealed, claiming that his statement was inadmissible under Maine Rule 804(b)(3) because it was "A statement or confession offered against the accused in a criminal case, made by a codefendant or other person implicating both himself and the accused...." The Supreme Court of Maine agreed, finding that "[w]hen offered against the accused in a criminal case, the last sentence excludes from the statement against penal interest hearsay exception out-of-court statements made by any person that implicate both the declarant and the accused." 

So, how many states have a similar explicit exclusion? According to the Maine Supremes, "six states have implemented similar language in their rules governing the admissibility of statements against penal interest." Those states are Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota Oklahoma, and Vermont.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2012/01/804b3-state-v-guyette-a3d-2012-wl-182159me2012.html

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