Brown was a tax preparer and was arrested on suspicion of
preparing fraudulent tax returns.
At trial, the prosecution put an IRS agent on the stand
who testified that, "90-95% of Brown's tax returns overstated the
The IRS agent was testifying from memory about
conversations she had had with the people Brown had prepared tax returns
for. She had no direct knowledge of whether the deductions were
overstated, but she was relying on what people told her out of court.
Brown objected on the grounds that the evidence was hearsay.
The judge allowed the evidence to be admitted.
The Trial Court convicted Brown for tax fraud. He
The Appellate Court overturned the conviction and remanded
for a new trial.
The Appellate Court found that the testimony of the IRS
agent was hearsay.
Brown did not have the opportunity to challenge the
people who made the statements in Court. In theory, he could have
impeached the credibility of the witnesses or asked them questions to
establish that he did not overstate the deductions. But since they
weren't in Court, he had no way to defend against their accusations.
Notice that even though the evidence given (in-court
testimony) is not the sort that is typically vulnerable to a hearsay
objection, the testimony can still be hearsay if it is based on hearsay
and not personal knowledge.
In a dissent, it was argued that the IRS agent audited the
tax returns and therefore had enough 'personal knowledge' to make the
statements without relying on what she heard from other people.
The IRS agent should have said something like, "I
personally reviewed the records and in my opinion they overstated the
deductions." That would be perfectly admissible.