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What Exactly Is Hearsay?


The American legal system has a set of highly technical rules about how trials should work. The rules are so complicated that sometimes they are even hard for lawyers to understand. The rules of evidence are no exception. These rules govern what facts can and cannot be considered by a judge or jury when trying a case. One rule is that hearsay cannot be admitted as evidence. Hearsay is a statement made in court, by a person that did not originally make the statement, that is offered as evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In a recent case out of Jefferson County, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals set an example of what counts as hearsay and what does not count.

Demarkus Robinson was convicted of first degree robbery. Robinson held a man at gunpoint and stole his car. The car was reported stolen and was found a few weeks later. A police detective spoke to the person driving the car when it was found. The driver told him that she had purchased the car from a guy named Mark. The detective then searched the driver’s cell phone and found contact information for Mark. Further investigation led the detective to Robinson.

On appeal, Robinson’s sole argument was that the police detective should not have been allowed to testify to what the driver of the stolen car told him. Robinson believed that the detective’s testimony that the driver said she “bought the car from a guy named Mark” was hearsay.
Under Alabama Rules of Evidence Rule 801(c), hearsay evidence can be admitted if it is used for a purpose other than to establish the truth of the matter asserted. In this case, for example, as long as the prosecution was not using the driver’s statement to prove that she bought the car from a guy named Mark, the detective could testify to the statement.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reasoned that there was in fact an alternative purpose for the testimony. Without testifying as to what the driver said, it would be really hard to explain to the jury the process of figuring out who stole the car. It would have been confusing to the jury why he searched the driver’s phone, how he decided to pick Robinson’s number out of her contact list, and how he used the phone number to find Robinson. For these reasons, the court ruled that the testimony was not hearsay and upheld Robinson’s robbery conviction.

As you can see, the rules of evidence can be complicated and hard to understand. Although in the end the Court of Appeals found that the testimony was not hearsay, there could be times when evidence is wrongfully admitted.

You need an experienced defense attorney who knows when to object to evidence being admitted and when to appeal wrongful admissions of evidence. Joseph A. Ingram of INGRAM LAW LLC is your man. He has the experience you need in defending your case. Call him today at 205-335-2640.

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