Monday, July 16, 2007

Excited Utterance Case

The Washington Supreme Court upheld the admission of a hearsay statement by an 11-year-old girl in an attempted molestation case as an excited utterance in State v. Young, No. 76533-2, Washington Courts website (July 12, 2007).

Justice Fairhurst summarized:

In a pretrial hearing, the trial court determined that hearsay statements were admissible as excited utterances even though the declarant later recanted the statements, the circumstances surrounding the statements provided the only corroboration that a startling event occurred, and minor discrepancies existed in the witnesses' testimony about the content of the statements. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the hearsay statements as excited utterances and affirm the Court of Appeals.
What caught my eye in the list of new opinions was that there were several: majority (Fairhurst, J., joined by C. Johnson, Bridge, Chambers, and Owens), concurrence (Alexander, C.J.), concurrence (Madsen, J.), and dissent (Sanders, J., joined by J. Johnson, J.). A split like that, with so many justices taking the time to write separately, is a sign that the case is not straightforward. And hence it's worth a close look for those trying to stay on top of the Evidence Rules and think about how to apply (or distinguish) precedent.

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