Individual and Group Decision Making: Current Issues

By N. John Castellan Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
9
THE EVALUATION OF HEARSAY EVIDENCE: A SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH

Peter Miene, Eugene Borgida, and Roger Park

University of Minnesota

Suppose that your favorite bank teller is present during a bank robbery, witnesses the robber, and a few hours later tells a police investigator everything that happened. At trial, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the police investigator may not be allowed to testify about the events described by the teller. The evidence would normally be excluded even if the teller were unavailable at the time of trial. The introduction of the evidence would be barred by the hearsay rule ( Park, 1987). In the law of evidence, hearsay is evidence that is introduced into court by one person (the witness) based on what another person (the declarant) has said outside of court, although a simple repetition of a statement is not necessarily hearsay. According to Lilly ( 1978), in order for testimony to be considered hearsay, "the repeated statement must be offered for the purpose of proving that what the declarant said is true--just as if the declarant were on the witness stand, giving testimony which the proponent wants the trier to believe" (p. 157).

Thus, some out-of-court statements are not hearsay because they are not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. For example, a declarant's statement "If you don't help me I'll kill you," offered by the proponent to show that the hearer was under duress, would not be hearsay. It does not matter whether the declarant was telling the truth or not; the hearer might still fear death. Most of the reasons provided by the Federal Rules of Evidence for excluding hearsay do not apply because there is no need to cross- examine the declarant under oath.

The fact that an out-of-court statement is hearsay does not necessarily mean

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