The Corner

Hearsay, Lesson 2

Thursday’s discussion of hearsay was meant by me to be tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, I must correct Peter’s overeager correspondent lest some impressionable law student out there be misled. Assuming we consider the newspaper to be the equivalent of a court, unless Arnold’s accusers were writing the press accounts themselves (for example, as first person op-eds), what the reporters say these women told them about what Arnold did to them is hearsay (in the legal sense, as opposed to the more colloquial definition provided by Peter in his initial response). In other words, had these women been writing the press accounts themselves, I agree it would not be “hearsay” in the legal sense, but if their statements are being related by reporters, then it they are “out-of press” (like “out of court”) statements offered to prove the truth of what they assert (e.g. Arnold really did grope me) and are, dear reader, hearsay. In still other words, when the women told the reporters what happened to them, that was not hearsay, but when the reporters told the public what the women told them that was hearsay—which is why I posted in jest that what was hearsay about Arnold is still hearsay. (Of course, if even a first person newspaper account were ever introduced in a real courtroom by an attorney as evidence against Arnold, it would then be hearsay again.)

The reader who wrote Peter should not feel too bad. When I was a prosecutor, most lawyers and even many judges did not understand what hearsay was and was not–which is why I always devoted a couple of weeks to the topic when I taught the law of evidence.


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