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Hearsay Exception: Statement Against Interest
Hearsay exception rule for statement against interest is build upon the principal that whenever a statement made against the interest of the declarant it will be made vigilantly and honestly. Hearsay is the reiteration of the in-court statements to an out of court assertions given to prove the authenticity of the matter asserted. These are out of court declarations therefore generally not permissible as evidence. The hearsay evidences are not considered by the court to be reliable because of its truthfulness, perceptions, memory and veracity of the out of court declarant. In court the evidences are taken under oath or solemn affirmation subjected to cross examination thus considered to be most trustworthy and reliable.
According to the Williamson standard for the exception to the rule against hearsay for statements against penal interest, the United States Supreme Court has defined the domain of Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) exception from the rule against hearsay for statements that are subject to declarant criminal liability. The Rule 804(b)(3) says that statement against interest are the statements made to oppose the declarant's financial or proprietary interest and/or subjected to declarant civil or criminal liability. (Emily, 2011). A statement which has been made to expose the declarant to criminal liability and are uttered to exonerate the accused will not be allowed until and unless the circumstances substantiate and explicitly indicates the authenticity of the statements offered.
For this reason, according to the Current Rule 804(b)(3) the advocate of the statement against interest must gratify three requirements for permission. These requirements are comprehensively discussed in the following text but briefly it says that first the advocate must exhibit that the declarant is unavailable as a witness; second the advocate must prove that the statement was opposing to the declarant's financial, proprietary or penal interest and finally the advocate must explain that a reasonable person in the declarant's position have not made the statement unless it is believed to be true.
discussion on the requirements for statement aganst interest to be permissible
Statement is defined to be a single say or assertion, contrary to the narratives that explains favorable and unfavorable comments. Statement against interest holds the view that statement which is opposing to the declarant's interest.
first the advocate must exhibit that the declarant is unavailable as a witness
The Federal Rules of Evidence has noted number of types of statements that are excluded by the Hearsay Rule and are permissible in the court. These exceptions are allowed for the situations which are believed to give trustworthy outcomes. Among other, some hearsay exceptions are based on whether the declarant of the statement is available to testify. However, there are circumstances when Hearsay Rule has been revised to Rule 803 which has allowed in the absence of declarant as a witness. Under the Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 804, Hearsay exceptions when the declarant is unavailable to testify come under the following circumstances:
1. A statement made by a declarant on the fact that declarant immediate death will occur is admissible to illustrate the cause or circumstances of the death. For example, the statement "Horace shot me," made immediately prior to the declarant died, is admissible for the purpose of proving that Horace committed murder (Fed. R. Evid. 804(2)).
2. Statement given as a testimony in the capacity of being a witness in the same hearing or different proceedings is permissible when the declarant is unavailable, but on the grounds that the concern authority, against whom the testimony is given has provided the opportunity to question or cross examines the witness. (Fed. R. Evid. 804(1)).
3. Statement regarding the declarant's personal or family history like own birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, legitimacy or any of the family history is admissible hearsay when the declarant is unavailable to testify (Fed. R. Evid. 804(4)).
second the advocate must prove that the statement was opposing to the declarant's financial, proprietary or penal interest
By law, declarations against penal interest were not permissible. Rule 804(b)(3) enforce a corroboration rule when declarations of penal interest were offered in criminal cases to exonerate the accused. However, in the federal cases corroboration requirements have been applied to exculpatory statements. The proposed revision in the Rule 803 was the elimination of the requirement of corroboration for statements against penal interest offered to exculpate an accused. For clarity purpose, two non-substantive revisions are planned. These include the replacement of 'render invalid' with 'invalidate' and replacement of 'the person believed' with 'believing'. The most important amendment was the introduction of the subjective test that functions independently of the objective reasoning of the declarant's belief. Objective test was imposed by the advisory committee whose purpose was centered to the requirement that the declarant is unavailable. It has created great difficulties in ascertaining the declarant's subjective believe about the statement. For this purpose Rule 803(7) adds subjective test that requires court to investigate and analyze whether the declarant personally believed the statement to be contrary to the declarant's interest.
The subjective test is costly as it provides admission of a statement contrary to any form of interest of declarant. Under it statements contrary to a declarant's proprietary, pecuniary or penal interests are admissible. Court has the authority to decide on the category of interest allowed. The subjective analysis is expensive investigative method for the reason it has the high probability of assuring trustworthiness. In both the cases whether objective or subjective test, both Current Rule 804(b)(3) and revised Rule 803(7) necessitate that the declarant have personal knowledge for the statement was against his/her interest when the statement was made. Further, Revised Rule 803(7) asserts that the declarant have no prevailing motives for misrepresentation (Ziemer).
Third Corroborating circumstances prove to be trustworthy of a declaration against interest
Finally the Current Rule 804(b)(3) necessitate corroborating circumstances explicitly representing the trustworthiness of a declaration against interest which was given to exculpate the accused. Current Rule 804(b)(3) doesn't indicate specifically what had to be corroborated and to what extent, thus it created an imbalance between evidence that could have been given by the prosecution and evidence that could have been presented by the accused. Cases where collateral statements are required, Courts of Appeals have admitted such statements provided they are "sufficiently integral" to the completeness of the statements against interest. To support this view the Second Circuit has indicated that the statement even if it's a neutral one, it could constitute a statement against interest in the context of Rule 804(b)(3) if it's part of broader conversation made to clearly identify self-incriminating statements.
Case In Point- Williamson v. United States
The case under consideration is given to explain the scope of the hearsay exception for statements against penal interest. Fed.Rule Evid. 804(b)(3). (David, 2003)
A Deputy Sheriff has arrested Reginald Harris, a car rental driver for possessing 19 kilogram of cocaine in two suitcases in the truck. Immediately after Harris arrest he was interviewed by Special Agent Donald Walton of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In his initial conversation with the agent he has said that he got the cocaine from some unidentified Cuban in Fort Lauderdale and the cocaine belonged to petitioner Williamson and it was to be delivered that night to some specific dumpster.
Agent Walton then speaks in person to Harris. In that interview Harris has said that he had rented the car couple of days back and had driven it to Fort Lauderdale to meet Williamson. As per his statement he got the cocaine from a Cuban who was Williamson close associate. Cuban had put the cocaine in the car with a note asking Harris how to deliver the drugs. Harris then repeats the whole story of dumper. After a while when Agent was on his way out of the interview room for further investigation…[continue]
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