Recently, a defendant in New York appealed his guilty conviction for attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon. On appeal, the defendant argued that during trial, the prosecution inappropriately introduced evidence of a 911 call from the victim’s mother. The call, argued the defendant, was hearsay, and it should not have been admitted. After considering this argument, the appellate court ultimately affirmed the original guilty verdict.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was charged when police arrested him for shooting another person in Queens. During the altercation, the defendant shot the victim, and the victim walked out of the incident injured but still alive. The State charged the defendant with several crimes, including attempted murder in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, assault in the second degree, and reckless endangerment in the first degree.
The case went to trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Even after the verdict, the defendant maintained that he was unjustly found guilty, and he appealed the jury’s decision.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the State should not have been allowed to introduce evidence of a 911 call made by the victim’s mother. In criminal proceedings, courts are generally not allowed to admit evidence that qualifies as hearsay. Hearsay is any statement offered to prove a case when it was made by someone outside of the court proceedings that is not a party to the case. However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule. Two that the Court found applicable here are an “excited utterance” which is a statement made under the influence of an extreme event and present sense perception which is a statement about what a person is seeing, hearing or feeling at the time of the utterance.
Here, the defendant claims that the victim’s mother called 911 in an environment outside of the court proceedings, and she was not a party to the case between the State and the defendant. Thus, because the State was offering the mother’s statement as evidence to prove that the defendant was guilty as charged, the statement should not have been admitted.
The court considered this argument but ultimately rejected it. While it is true, said the court, that the victim’s mother’s statement would have normally been excluded, it fit under an important exception in this case. When a statement is made during an emergency situation and the speaker is in a state of stress, the statement can sometimes come in as evidence. Here, the victim’s mother made the statement in an emergency situation – her son had been shot and his life was in danger. She was clearly in a state of stress. Thus, the statement fit under this exception to the hearsay rule, and it was admissible at trial.
Because of this exception, the court denied the defendant’s request for a new verdict.
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