The Hearsay Rule
CRJ335 – Laws of Evidence
Colorado State University Global
The Federal Rules of Evidence defines hearsay as “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” (Gardner & Anderson, 2016). It does not take much for this rule to be used inappropriately as seen in the case of Herminio Hernandez.
Hernandez was arrested for selling drugs to an informant. A DEA agent and an informant both went undercover to obtain evidence and charge Hernandez with cocaine trafficking (U.S. v. Hernandez, 1985). The informant and the DEA agent posed as husband and wife and met with Hernandez at a coffee shop. Both the informant and the DEA agent testified that there was talk of a cocaine sale. Later, the two met with Hernandez at a service station and then followed him to his tire shop (U.S. v. Hernandez, 1985). It was at the shop that two packages of cocaine were presented and Hernandez was subsequently arrested.
At his trial, the prosecution had elicited testimony from the DEA agent that the investigation had been opened as a result of a tip from another federal agent claiming that Hernandez was a drug dealer (U.S. v. Hernandez, 1985). This testimony was stated multiple times and embellished upon during the closing argument. Hernandez appealed on the grounds that the testimony was inadmissible because it was hearsay (U.S. v. Hernandez, 1985).
The final outcome from Hernandez’s appeal was that the statements were deemed inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence, Rules 802, 403 and 403(b) (U.S. v. Hernandez, 1985). The statements were made out of court by someone other than the declarant, and they were offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
The hearsay rule played a very critical part in this case because the government was relying on this testimony to prove Hernandez’s guilt and this type of evidence is not admissible under FRE 802. Rule 802 reads: “Hearsay is not admissible except as provided by these rules or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority or by Act of Congress.” United States v. Hernandez, 750 F.2d 1256, 1258 n.3 (5th Cir. 1985).
Even though the did technically prove that Hernandez was a drug trafficker, I would still agree with the decision of the Supreme Court. The fact the appeal was held only goes to show that the prosecution did not do their job well. It is not hard to tell that that statement made by the DEA agent falls under those hearsay rules and the fact that the prosecution allowed the statement to be presented in the testimony and the fact that the judge allowed it falls back on them.
Gardner, T. J., & Anderson, T. M. (2016). Criminal evidence: principles and cases (9th ed.). Boston , MA: Cengage Learning.
Rubin, A. B. (1985, January 3). United States v. Hernandez. Retrieved February 2, 2020, from https://casetext.com/case/united-states-v-hernandez-13
United States v. Hernandez. (1985). Retrieved February 2, 2020, from https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/evidence/evidence-keyed-to-waltz/the-hearsay-rule/united-states-v-hernandez/