The rule against hearsay generally bans one person from testifying in court about what another person, like a witness or victim, said outside of court, if it’s being used to prove a fact. In other words, a witness generally can’t testify in court that the victim told him who committed the crime. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently pointed out one of many important limits on this rule: It can’t stop other evidence proving the same fact to be entered into the record.
Mr. Jefferson was charged with attempted armed sexual assault and armed false imprisonment, stemming from an incident near the Aventura Mall in South Florida. An 18-year-old woman was walking home from her job at the mall when Jefferson asked her repeatedly if she needed a ride and told her to get in. The woman obliged because it was raining heavily. She later said that Jefferson drove in the wrong direction and then offered her money to have sex with him. Jefferson grabbed her and pulled out a gun when she refused, she said. The woman managed to escape – without her cell phone and one shoe – when Jefferson pulled in to a nearby park. A local homeowner called 911 when the woman began screaming when she was caught on a fence attempting to escape Jefferson, according to the court.
Jefferson admitted at trial that he had picked up the woman and offered to pay her for sex. He also said she refused and ran away once the car was parked. Prosecutors introduced the 911 tape – which included the victim and the homeowner speaking with an emergency operator – among other evidence at trial. They also introduced testimony from a local police officer about what the homeowner told him the day after the incident. According to the officer, the homeowner said he heard woman screaming, went out to check, found the victim stuck on a fence, and saw a man walking to a black car nearby.
Jefferson appealed the conviction, arguing that the officer’s statements about the conversation with the homeowner was hearsay that shouldn’t have been admitted as evidence at trial. The Third District said it wouldn’t get to that question because the testimony contribute to Jefferson’s conviction. That’s because it simply restated evidence gained elsewhere.
“The 911 recording of both the 911 caller and the victim was admitted into evidence without objection and played to the jury,” the court explained. “The detective’s testimony about the 911 caller’s statement to him was merely duplicative of that information, where the statement that the Appellant used a gun in the commission of the offense had already been admitted.”
As a result, the court affirmed Jefferson’s conviction.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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