Wednesday, August 3, 2022
Court of Appeals of Mississippi Finds Rule 801(d)(1)(C) Only Applies to Technical Identifications
Similar to its federal counterpart, Mississippi Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(C) provides an exclusion to the rule against hearsay when
The declarant testifies and is subject to cross-examination about a prior statement, and the statement:....
(C) identifies a person as someone the declarant perceived earlier.
So, what types of identifications are admissible under Rule 801(d)(1)(C)? That was the question addressed by the Court of Appeals of Mississippi in its recent opinion in Bays v. State, 2022 WL 3038838 (Miss.App. 2022).
In Bays, "[a] Coahoma County jury convicted Willie Bays of one count of sexual battery by a person in a position of trust or authority." Bays subsequently appealed, claiming, inter alia, the trial court erred by allowing for the admission of a statement the alleged victim made to her cousin about Bays molesting her. According to the court,
Rule 801(d)(1)(C) allows a statement to be admitted into evidence as non-hearsay if it was a statement that “identifies a person as someone the declarant perceived earlier” and if the declarant testifies at trial and is subject to cross-examination. In James v. State,...we found that a statement made by a witness to his brother-in-law, stating that it was the defendant he had seen and shot at outside a house, was not a statement of identification under Rule 801(d)(1)(C). This Court held that Rule 801(d)(1)(C) “was not intended to allow the introduction as substantive evidence of hearsay statements that ‘the defendant did it.’”...The phrase “‘statement of identification’ as contemplated by Rule 801(d)(1)(C)...uses identification in a technical sense, referring to a witness identifying the defendant in a line-up, show-up, photo array, preliminary hearing, or the like.”...Moreover, “perceived earlier” as used in the rule “should be interpreted to refer to perceiving the individual or a representation of him once again after the event in question.”...Rule 801(d)(1)(C) “does not include statements unaccompanied by recognition of the defendant or his likeness.”
Applying this analysis, the court concluded that
Here, Sarah's statement to Anderson is more analogous to the erroneously admitted statement in James, where it was made to a family member outside the formal investigation process and was not a “statement of identification” as contemplated by Rule 801(d)(1)(C). Sarah's statement occurred one month after the alleged assault during a conversation with Anderson, who was not an investigator, after Anderson had approached Sarah solely out of concern for her well-being because she had started to act out more often than usual. Further, Sarah's brief statement that her father molested her was not made in response to perceiving him once again after the assault at issue....Rather, it was a statement “that a certain person, known to [Sarah], committed a crime[,]” and it was not a statement of identification in a technical sense....Therefore, it was not admissible as a non-hearsay statement of identification, and the trial court erred by allowing Anderson's testimony of Sarah's statements under Rule 801(d)(1)(C).