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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

You Complete Me: Illinois Court Botches Rule of Completeness Ruling

Similar to its federal counterpartIllinois Rule of Evidence 106 states that

When a writing or recorded statement or part thereof is introduced by a party, an adverse party may require the introduction at that time of any other part or any other writing or recorded statement which ought in fairness to be considered contemporaneously with it.

After re-reading this language, you can see why the court's interpretation of this "rule of completeness" in People v. Kraybill, 2014 WL 120232 (Ill.App.1st 2014), was dead wrong.

In Kraybill, David Kraybill was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Joel Cacharelis. Through a pretrial motion in limine,

the State sought to preclude Kraybill from discussing a tape-recorded conversation between Kraybill and Sergeant James Christensen of the Winnetka police department that occurred on February 21, 2004. The State argued the conversation was hearsay unless: (1) the State questioned Christensen about that conversation during his direct examination or (2) Kraybill decided to testify. Kraybill responded that Christensen recorded the conversation with a concealed recording device that was unknown to Kraybill and the recorded conversation was not hearsay. Kraybill claimed that the recorded conversation addressed statements Kraybill allegedly made to Christensen in 2003 and explained the interaction between the two individuals during the 2003 interviews. The trial court granted the State's motion but noted that the conversation could be admitted if Kraybill took the stand and denied making the earlier statements.

Kraybill, however, did not take the stand, and the trial court's ruling subsequently formed the basis for his appeal

In addressing that appeal, the court cited to both the common law completeness doctrine and Illinois Rule of Evidence 106, which took effect in 2011:

Forfeiture aside, both the completeness doctrine and Rule 106 are inapplicable. Under the common law completeness doctrine, the remainder of a writing, recording or oral statement is admissible to prevent the jury from being mislead, to place the admitted evidence in context to convey its true meaning or to shed light on the meaning of the admitted evidence. People v. Craigen, 2013 IL App (2d) 111300, ¶ 42 . Because Kraybill seeks to admit statements made during an entirely different interview, the completeness doctrine does not apply. Rule 106 codified, in part, the completeness doctrine and provides: “When a writing or recorded statement or part thereof is introduced by a party, an adverse party may require the introduction at that time of any other part or any other writing or recorded statement which ought in fairness to be considered contemporaneously with it.” (Emphasis added.) Ill. R. Evid. 106 (eff.Jan.1, 2011); Craigen, 2013 IL App (2d) 111300, ¶ 42. Based on Rule 106's express language, either a written or recorded statement must be introduced by a party in order for an adverse party to invoke the rule to admit the remaining portion or another written or recorded statement. Kraybill seeks to admit the 2004 recorded interview to explain oral statements he made during the 2003 interviews. The State did not introduce any written or recorded statements of the 2003 interviews. For this reason, Rule 106 is also inapplicable. Consequently, for the reasons stated, the 2004 tape recorded interview was inadmissible and the trial court did not err in excluding it from evidence.

As I said in the introduction, this analysis is dead wrong. The court in effect is asserting that Rule 106 never allows for the admission of second writing/recording to clarify/contextualize a first writing/recording. But that's not right. And I know that it's not right because I prepared the comparative report that was used as the basis for drafting the Illinois Rules of Evidence. And indeed, the Craigen case cited by the court in Kraybill notes that

Rule 106 also varies from the common-law completeness doctrine in that it was 1 of 14 rules in which the Committee incorporated “uncontroversial developments with respect to the law of evidence as reflected in the Federal Rules of Evidence and the 44 surveyed jurisdictions.” Ill. R. Evid., Committee Commentary (adopted Sept. 27, 2010). The Committee explained the modernization of the rule as follows: “Prior Illinois law appears to have limited the concept of completeness to other parts of the same writing or recording or an addendum thereto. The ‘ought in fairness' requirement allows admissibility of statements made under separate circumstances.” Ill. R. Evid., Committee Commentary (adopted Sept. 27, 2010). In People v. Brown, 249 Ill.App.3d 986, 189 Ill.Dec. 773, 620 N.E.2d 1090 (1993), for example, which was decided prior to the adoption of the Illinois Rules of Evidence, the court held that the completeness doctrine did not permit admission of a defendant's oral statement to a sergeant and a detective that was made one hour before a second oral statement to the same detective and an assistant State's Attorney. Brown, 249 Ill.App.3d at 991, 189 Ill.Dec. 773, 620 N.E.2d 1090. The court reasoned that the completeness doctrine applied only “to what was said on the same subject at the same time.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Brown, 249 Ill.App.3d at 990, 189 Ill.Dec. 773, 620 N.E.2d 1090. By contrast, Rule 106 allows admission of writings or recorded statements that were not made at the same time as the admitted evidence. Ill. R. Evid. 106 (eff. Jan. 1, 2011).

In other words, there are circumstances where Rule 106 allows for the admission of second writing/recording to clarify/contextualize a first writing/recording. Were such circumstances present in Kraybill? I don't know.

-CM

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Comments

Colin, It was not clear from your statement of the Craybil case that the 2003 conversation was admitted at trial by the prosecution. I assume it was for 106 to apply. If so, you are certainly correct based simply upon the language of the rule: "any other statement." Fred

Posted by: Fred Moss | Jul 14, 2014 10:53:32 AM

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