Arresting Officers and Treating Physicians: When May a Witness Testify to What Others Told Him for the Purpose of Explaining His Conduct?
22 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 16, 2005
Under the hearsay rules, witnesses are frequently allowed to testify about a statement they heard someone else make, even if the statement might otherwise be inadmissible hearsay, if the testimony will properly enable the witness to explain to the jury why the witness formed certain beliefs or took certain actions on the basis of that statement. But just as often, in cases involving nearly identical circumstances, such testimony is not admissible for that purpose. As is so often the case with respect to the hearsay rules, everything depends on the context. The distinction is an important one for the trial lawyer, because lawyers invariably find themselves embroiled in arguments over this fine line at every trial.
This article clearly lays out and explains the important but sometimes poorly understood law concerning the circumstances under which a lawyer may — or may not — properly respond to a hearsay objection by advising the judge: "This evidence about that statement is not being offered for its truth, but to allow the witness to explain to the jury the beliefs he formed, or the things he did, after he heard or read that statement."
Keywords: hearsay, trials, evidence, police officers, medical doctors, testimony
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