The text-book definition of hearsay is as follows: an out of court statement other than the one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
This doesn’t mean just oral statements, it includes written ones too, unless it fits into one of the hearsay exceptions.
Fore example, Lou is on trial for murdering his wife. Todd is on the witness stand and says Tim, who is Lou’s best friend, said that Lou was really angry at his wife and wanted her dead. It just so happens that Lou’s wife Erica was found dead shortly after this conversation. This is hearsay. It is an out of court statement made by someone other than Todd and is offered for its truth. Lou wanted his wife dead.
However, the statement, even though it is hearsay may still be admissible if it fits into one of the hearsay exceptions (there are lots of them) or if it is not being offered for its truth. which is a stretch in this example .
Hear are the Exceptions:
- Former Testimony Exception
- Dying Declaration
- Statement against Interest
- Admissions by party opponent
- Public Records Exception
- State of Mind — Declaration
- Past Recollection Recorded (does not require unavailability of the declarant)
- Prior Consistent Statements (w/in Rule)
- Excited Utterances
- Present Sense Impression
- Business Records
- Present Physical Condition
I think that I will start approaching the exceptions in separate blog entries as opposed to explaining them all now. It would be an unruly blog entry to do so.
However, if in the interim there are questions about what hearsay is and what are the exceptions, then please feel free to contact the office.
The rules of evidence are no picnic and difficult for even the most seasoned NJ criminal lawyer to understand. If you need any information regarding your hearsay questions, a little research and a phone call is a good place to start.