Thursday, July 2, 2009

Refresher Course - Hearsay

I knew a guy in college who decided to run from the police just to see if they would chase him. He had done absolutely nothing wrong, but he was walking past two police officers, made eye contact, and then took off running just to see if they would chase him. They did. But they didn't catch him. We all had a good laugh about that one. We never could figure out why they were chasing him. What my friend did not know was, that under Illinois' statutes, he could have been charged with resisting a peace officer (if they would have caught him).

The defendant in People v. Sorrels, 906 N.E.2d 788 (Ill.App. 4 Dist. 2009) was approached on foot by a police officer for no reason whatsoever. The police officer testified that he drove past a church and saw three men standing in the doorway. He circled the block and when he came back around, the three men were still standing in the doorway. So he decided to park his car and go investigate this outrageous and egregious display of three people standing on a sidewalk doing nothing wrong. Two men stayed, but one man ran. The officer yelled "stop," but the man did not stop. The police officer eventually caught the man. The man was arrested for nothing other than resisting a peace officer. He was eventually convicted.

Defendant appealed. One issue on appeal was whether the officer's testimony that he yelled "stop" was inadmissible hearsay. Hearsay, as you recall, is defined as an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The court, however, went on to explain that many out-of-court utterances fall within such categories as "greetings, pleasantries, expressions of gratitude, courtesies, questions, offers, instructions, warnings, exclamations, expressions of joy, annoyances, or other emotion, etc." The court found that such utterances "are not intended expressions of fact or opinion. They are not assertions, at least for purposes of the hearsay rule. Thus they are not hearsay."

I completely agree that the officer's statement is not hearsay, but I don't necessarily agree that you can simply say that greetings, instructions, warnings, etc. can never be hearsay. That seems a little too easy. Maybe if this appellate court would have written our evidence text book it wouldn't have been 1600 pages long.

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