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

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Were You Thinking DNJ Finds Statement By Minor Victim Wasn't Admissible Under State Of Mind Exception

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(3) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A statement of the declarant’s then-existing state of mind (such as motive, intent, or plan) or emotional, sensory, or physical condition (such as mental feeling, pain, or bodily health), but not including a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed unless it relates to the validity or terms of the declarant’s will.

As Rule 803(3) makes clear, this state of mind exception only covers statements indicating the declarant's then-existing state of mind, not statements that reflect the declarant's state of mind at a prior time. This was also made clear in the recent opinion of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in Mayfield v. United States, 2012 WL 664806 (D.N.J. 2012).

In Mayfield, Kevin Mayfield was arrested pursuant to a federal criminal complaint, charging him with conspiring to transport minors in interstate commerce with the intent that they engage in prostitution. Thereafter, Mayfield brought an action pursuant to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 USC § 2255.

One of Mayfield's arguments was that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney did not 

investigate and interview his brother, Darrick Mayfield. In support of his argument, Petitioner submit[ted] an affidavit of Darrick Mayfield, who aver[red] that, if asked, he would have testified that on June 7, 2007, Darrick Mayfield was in the car when Petitioner dropped [one of the alleged victims] J.B. off in Philadelphia, and that after J.B. exited Petitioner's car, she stated, "I am a grown woman, I can take care of myself."

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey disagreed, finding that

Even if the jury had heard that J.B. told Petitioner that she was a "grown woman" when she was dropped off in Philadelphia, it would not have been relevant to the jury's determination that Petitioner believed that J.B. was a minor at the time that he photographed her, which is the critical point in time. Further, as set forth above, the government presented other evidence which the jury could have concluded that at the time that Petitioner took nude photos of J.B. and posted them on Craig's List, he believed that she was a minor. Petitioner concede[d] that the jury would have been free to weigh the credibility of Darrick Mayfield and find that his testimony was less credible because he is the brother of the Petitioner. 

Moreover, the court found that it was

doubtful these alleged statements made to Darrick Mayfield would have been admitted. First, the alleged statements of J.B. that she was a "grown woman" and "could take care of [her]self" are inadmissible hearsay....That J.B. allegedly said she was "grown" and "could take care of [her]self" after Petitioner took sexually explicit photos of her and after Petitioner posted them on Craig's List could not be offered to show Petitioner's state of mind regarding J.B.'s age at the time he took those photographs and posted them on Craig's List....

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2012/03/federal-rule-of-evidence-8033provides-an-exception-to-the-rule-against-hearsay-for-a-statement-of-the-declarants-then.html

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