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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Essay on Hearsay Evidence Rule and its Exceptions

Essay on Hearsay Evidence Rule and its Exceptions

            Hearsay evidence refers to the kind of evidence the probative force of which depends in whole or in part on the competency and credibility of some persons other than the witness by whom it is sought to produce it.   The testimony of a witness is regarded as hearsay when he testifies to the declarations of another for the purpose of proving the facts asserted by the other person or declarant.  This is generally not allowed in court since a witness can only testify to matters of his own personal knowledge. 
            There are several exceptions to the hearsay evidence rule.  One of which is the dying declaration in which the declaration of a dying person made under the consciousness of an impending death may be received in evidence on the cause and the surrounding circumstances of his death provided that the issue is the subject of his death.  For example, a person was fatally shot in the body.  Because of the massive loss of blood and the realization that his death is near, the victim relays to his person the incident that Mr. Smith shot him.  Such evidence can be used against Mr. Smith.  Although this is clearly hearsay since the person who has personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the cause of his death is the victim himself, such however is no longer possible.  Necessity demands that this evidence be allowed because it will no longer be possible to produce a deceased person to testify in court 
            Another exception is the declaration against interest.  Under the rules of evidence, the declaration of a person who is deceased or is unable to testify in court against his own interest if the fact asserted by him was at the time it was made so far contrary to his own interest that a reasonable man would not have made the declaration unless he believed it to be true is also admissible against him in evidence.   For example, in a conversation between Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith relayed to Mr. Jones that he is no the owner of the house he is presently occupying.  Such declaration can be admitted as evidence against him even if later on he can no longer testify in court either because he is already dead or mentally incapacitated. The same is based on the trustworthiness of his statement as no person in his right mind will say something that will damage him unless such is true.
            Another exception to the hearsay evidence rule is the declaration about pedigree.  Under the rule, declaration of a person who is deceased or unable to testify in respect of the pedigree of another person related to him by birth or marriage may be received in evidence provided that the declaration was made before the controversy occurred.  For example, the issue is as to the paternity of a child in court.  Mr. Smith once made a declaration before Mr. Jones that David is his child.  If the issue in court is the pedigree of David, the declaration once made by Mr. Smith that he is the father of David can be presented in court even if Mr. Smith is already dead or is mentally incapacitated to testify.  The reason behind this rule is the trustworthiness of the declaration.  Members of the same family would not talk about their relationship to other people unless it is true.
            Another known exception is the res gestae.  Under res gestae, statements made by a person while a startling occurrence is happening or immediately prior or subsequent thereto with respect to the circumstances thereof may be received in evidence as part of the res gestae.  For example, a shooting incident is a startling occurrence.  If Mr. Smith is shot by Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith tells this incident to Mr. Doe.  If Mr. Smith eventually survives the shooting incident the same does not fall under dying declaration but it definitely falls under res gestae.  In this situation, the statement made by Mr. Smith that Mr. Jones was responsible for the shooting is admissible even if it was Mr. Doe who testified in court.  The reason for admitting res gestae even if it is hearsay is because of the trustworthiness of the statements as these statements are instinctive and spontaneous statements in which the declarant does not have the time and opportunity to concoct stories or lies. (American Law Encyclopedia 2) 

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