March 13, 2013

May 1987 - Did I Really Hear That?

In a murder trial, the policeman testified, "When I arrived, the victim was still alive and he said ..."

At this point, the witness was abruptly interrupted by the judge, with stern warning that the witness should not say anything else until it was determined whether the evidence was admissible. The jury was excused and, for the next several hours, the attorneys argued subtle legal points as to whether or not the victim's statements were within the "dying declaration" exception to the hearsay rule. The prosecution, of course, contended that they clearly were; however, the defense argued that there was no showing that the deceased victim actually knew he was dying when he spoke to the policeman. Finally, the trial was recessed and, after hours of his own research, the judge announced the next morning that the testimony was admissible as a dying declaration. So, the policeman returned to the stand for this exchange:

Q. Now officer, yesterday you were about to tell us what the deceased said when you arrived on the scene. Please tell the judge and the jury what he said.

A. Well, he just said "Ugh!" and died.