State v. English
201 N.C. 295, 159 S.E. 318 (1931)
- English was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife.
- At Trial, English offered evidence that the day after the
murder, the police arrested a guy named Locke, who admitted to three
policemen that he had committed the murder English was accused of.
- However, the police had let Locke go, and Locke's
whereabouts were unknown, so he could not be called to testify at trial.
- The Trial Court refused to admit the evidence about
Locke's confession on the grounds that it was hearsay.
- The Trial Court convicted English. He appealed.
- English argued that the testimony about Locke should have
- The North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.
- The North Carolina Supreme Court found that the testimony
of a third party (Locke), not under oath, was hearsay.
- Basically, just because Locke said he did it, it didn't
mean he did and had no bearing on whether or not English committed the
- The basic reason why testimony like this isn't admissible
is that the prosecution had no way to cross-examine Locke, or to question
him to determine if his claim was credible.
- Locke could have been a raving lunatic, but the jury
would have no way of knowing that unless he testified.
- Historically, courts have not admitted this sort of
testimony because they worried that a rich defendant would pay someone to
claim they committed the crime, thereby exonerating the defendant.