Monday, May 24, 2021
Court of Appeals of Indiana Punts on Issue of Whether Facebook Messages Meet the State of Mind Hearsay Exception
A statement of the declarant’s then-existing state of mind (such as motive, design, 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 execution, revocation, identification, or terms of the declarant’s will.
So, would Rule 803(3) cover the following Facebook messages received on a defendant's phone on the day of his drug arrest?
Hey bud whatcha doing my man lmfao wants some bad, he said he just wants a few bong rips lmfaoDid I show you what I madeHey bubYou ok bubI got you cash bubI'm at home I need and got your money.Hey guy, whatcha doing? Got cash for a zipI mean how much for four whole ones grnI need a qp broOk so I got that but what about a b
These were the facts in Hurd v. State, 2021 WL 2065924 (Ind. App. 2021), where Jeromy D. Hurd was convicted of dealing in methamphetamine, dealing in marijuana, and theft. After he was convicted, Hurd appealed, claiming that the messages "constitute[d] inadmissible hearsay because they were used to prove the declarants wanted to buy drugs." The State disagree, claiming "that the messages are admissible under Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(3), which allows '[a] statement of the declarant's then-existing state of mind,' such as motive, intent, or plan." The Court of Appeals held that "[w]e need not resolve this issue because even if these messages were improperly admitted, the error was harmless."
While the court punted on this issue, it seems clear that the messages were admissible under Rule 803(3) based on Hurd's own reasoning. Statements that people wanted to buy drugs are clearly statements of their state of mind, i.e., they wanted drugs.