Although the meaning of hearsay seems, at first blush, simple enough, it is really quite confusing. There are exceptions to hearsay, making it a confounding concept in criminal cases. Anytime there are exceptions to a rule, confusion is bound to occur. Believe me, the hearsay exceptions are confusing! I would attempt to break the exceptions down for you, but it’s ultra confusing and mired in details that end up looking like a tangled web of words, words, words.
So… Let’s not go there!
But, because the Casey Anthony case is moving along to its finish line, this is a good time to try to define hearsay. Especially in lieu of all the discovery we have been privy to in the Casey Anthony case. By the way, it’s called “discovery” for a reason. All the material we have been privy to (thanks to the Floria Sunshine Law), is not evidence, rather it’s information that LE and the State have gathered to form the backbone and foundation of their theory about the case.
The information we have read and heard may never see the light of day, depending on its hearsay classification come trial time. (A good amount of the discovery will never see the light of day in the trial as a result of hearsay rules.)
Law enforcement collects hearsay as a matter of course. LE learns a great deal about a case via hearsay when they are building their concept of what happened. It helps them put the pieces of the puzzle together, and they are able to separate hearsay from evidence, though before trial it is all categorized as discovery in Florida.
For instance, the LE interview sessions with individuals in the Casey Anthony case are chock full of hearsay and information that is not usable because of hearsay laws. And when the State Attorney’s Office has the case, they have to comb through these interviews and other facts of the case from LE to find what is evidence versus what is hearsay.
By the same token, because Florida rules of discovery say that everything produced via work on a case is discoverable (a product of a case), it is thus required to be released to the public.
By the way, not every trial in Florida is under the lens of public scrutiny like the Casey Anthony case. Because this case, from day one, fascinated the public, the media outlets fought for the right of release of information via the Florida Sunshine Laws. Hence, we have the Casey Anthony case under the looking glass 24/7.
So. let’s start with a definition of hearsay, then we’ll look at a definition of the hearsay rule. Finally, I will try to define the hearsay rules through the lens of the Anthony case – the operative word here is “try”. If there are any lawyers out there who would care to correct me, I’d surely welcome the input!
Secondhand information that a witness only heard about from someone else and did not see or hear himself. Hearsay is not admitted in court because it’s not trustworthy, as well as because of various constitutional principles such as the right to confront one’s accusers, however, there are so many exceptions that often times hearsay is admitted more than excluded. Source: Lectlaw.com
Hearsay Rule Definition:
Definition – Noun
A rule barring the admission of hearsay as evidence. The hearsay rule is stated in Rule 802 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Hearsay is inadmissible as evidence because of the unavailability of cross-examination to test the accuracy of the statement. There are numerous exceptions to the rule, however, mainly for statements made under circumstances that assure reliability. Statements made spontaneously, for example, or as part of a business or medical record are inherently trustworthy and thus excepted from the rule. A statement need not be made orally for purposes of the hearsay rule. Written statements, gestures, and even motion pictures are included. Source: Lawyers.com
A declarant is a person who makes a statement. A “statement” is:
- An oral or written assertion; or
- Nonverbal conduct of a person if it is intended by the person as an assertion.
Hearsay is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Source: law.onecle.com
Testimony from a witness during a trial would not be hearsay unless the witness repeats something that someone else said (or wrote). Also, if a witness makes a statement that is introduced in trial to prove something other than the truth of something, it is not considered to be hearsay. According to Lectlaw.com, testimony can be given to illustrate the state of mind of the speaker of something. For example, if Cindy and Casey were fighting and Cindy called Casey “a murderess” and if I overheard Cindy making the statement, I could not testify to the “truth” of Casey being a murderess, but I could repeat the statement because it would illustrate Cindy’s anger, or state of mind, at the time she made the statement – to show that she was angry at Casey. This type of testimony will be especially helpful to the State of Florida since George and Cindy Anthony made so many contradicting statements. The State has a plethora of conflicting statements to use against the Anthony’s should they try to dissemble on the stand at trial.
Are you confused? Don’t worry, so am I!
Here’s another example:
If a witness makes a statement out of court, it could be presented at trial if it contradicts what he is saying in the trial when the out of court statement is used to create doubt on the witness’s credibility (rather than proving the truth of the matter at hand). So, let’s say Dr. Lee is testifying that it’s wrong to use one pair of gloves to collect different blood samples – that the collector of the blood should frequently change his or her gloves. Well, if Dr. Lee said just the opposite in another trial, and if it were pointed out to the jury, it would lower Dr. Lee’s credibility.
There are quite a number of exceptions to the hearsay rule, and I’ve not even scratched the surface here! But, I do hope this will help us in the future as the hearings happen with greater frequency, and the start of the trial commences.
First, I wanted to share with you a very telling segment from the Orlando Sheriff’s Office’s interview with River Cruz. (Video segment below.)
In this segment, River discusses the dynamics of Cindy and George’s relationship. She also discusses an argument about the $20,000 payment from Good Morning America that Cindy Anthony was supposed to get in advance of appearing on the show.
There is a very difficult and touching moment in this clip where River nearly breaks down and struggles to tell Detective Eric Edwards, and John Allen how George Anthony, crying, tells her that Caylee’s death was “an accident that snow-balled out of control.”
On other clips, River mentions that the Anthony’s never spoke about the case, or the search for Caylee in their home as they felt that Law Enforcement had their home bugged – wired for sound. As such, River and George never talked at the Anthony home.
It seems that George used River’s home as a refuge away from Cindy, who, according to River, often appeared sedated.
Regardless, I find that the Anthony’s were worried about LE “Bugs” completely shocking! Personally, I never wanted to believe that George or Cindy were really that ruthless or cunning or despicable.
If my niece were missing and if we were lucky enough to have the FBI helping our family to find the person culpable, God forbid, I can’t imagine being afraid of law enforcement during such a time! They would be allies and friends and we would look to them with reverence for caring about our child. I mean, that’s how anyone in this position would feel. Right?
But, not the Anthony’s. No, not the Anthony’s. From the time they realized they’d lost Caylee and they put the reality together in their broken minds that Casey was the one responsible, their actions became: Protect Casey. And then, the more the Anthony’s began to dissemble, it became: Protect us (Cindy and George) from culpability.
And George and Cindy, instead of going into seclusion to grieve, what do they do? They begin to blame LE for not working hard enough to find Caylee, who they know is deceased! They send the FBI and LE all over the country looking for Caylee when they knew she was gone. If that is not heartless, I do not know what is.
I have to tell you, I think the men and women in the Orlando Sheriff’s Office are incredible people. They are dedicated, passionate professionals who never, to this day, have lost sight of what is really important here: Justice for Caylee. I have listened to Eric Edwards, Yuri Mellich, John Allen, Appie Wells, and other fine investigators whose names I cannot recall, and I feel as if I know them. I think they are all wonderful men and women and I look forward to the day when justice is served and these fine people can go on to work on other missing children cases. God knows there are enough of these terrible cases out there.
On a separate note, there was an article in today’s Orlando Sentinel about the Orlando Public Defender’s Office’s clothing drive to assist indigent defendants. It appears that not only does Orlando have a fantastic State Attorney’s Office, but they have great people at their Public Defender’s Office, too.
It is a shame that Casey did not get a public defender to try her case. I know from personal experience that most public defenders are excellent attorney’s and they are guided and trained by dedicated attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office ranks. I know this because my brother was a public defender for a few years before he started his own criminal practice. Casey Anthony would not be in the mess she’s in now had a public defender been issued this case. Casey Anthony would not be staring at the death penalty through the barrel of a gun as she is now.
Every person, regardless of who they are – white, black; Hindu, Baptist, rich or poor – deserve to be innocent until proven guilty. So does Casey Anthony. Unfortunately, thanks to her hapless attorney who fans the flames of the Angel-Casey as if he were on a mountaintop blowing smoke signals that spell I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T, when we all know otherwise, is truly troubling. Attorney Baez, like the Anthony’s, needs to stop talking. He is making it worse for his client. His client is looking down the barrel of a gun that god forbid, is fired due to his ineptitude.
God help Casey Anthony and God Bless the fine women and men in public service in Orlando.
WARNING River uses harsh language when quoting George Anthony.