Shepard v. United States 290 U.S. 96, 54 S.Ct. 22, 78 L.Ed. 196 (1933)
Shepard was married, but was in love with another woman.
Shepard's wife was poisoned. As she lay on her deathbed
she told her nurse that she believed that the whisky she had been drinking
was poisoned and said, "Dr. Shepard has poisoned me!"
Shepard was arrested in charged with murder.
At trial, the prosecution attempted to introduce Mrs.
Shepard objected on the grounds that it was hearsay.
The prosecution argued that under the common law, it was
a dying declaration and was therefore an exception to hearsay.
The Trial Judge originally struck the statement, but the
nurse then testified that Mrs. Shepard also said that she knew she was
going to die. The Trial Judge then allowed the statement to be admitted.
One of the requirements for a dying declaration to
be admissible is that the declarant must believe they are going to die.
The Trial Court found Shepard guilty of murder. Shepard
Shepard unsuccessfully argued that his wife was suicidal
and had poisoned herself.
The Appellate Court affirmed. Shepard appealed.
The Appellate Court found that the statement was not
admissible as a dying declaration.
However, the Appellate Court found that the statement was
admissible to prove Mrs. Shepard's state of mind.
Shepard had introduced testimony that suggested Mrs.
Shepard was suicidal. The prosecution argued that Mrs. Shepard's
statement proved that she was not suicidal.
People who commit suicide don't normal accuse others of
The statement could not be used to prove the allegation
that Shepard actually poisoned his wife, only that she believed that
Shepard poisoned her and that belief rebuts Shepard's argument that she
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found that the statement had not
been used to show state of mind. The prosecution had offered it
as proof of a dying declaration.
The trial record showed that the statement was admitted
upon the footing of a dying declaration and not merely indicative of the
persistence of a will to live.
No jury instruction had been issued on how the jury was
to use the testimony.
The Court distinguished statements that look forward from
those that look backwards. Forward-looking statements about one's own actions
such as, "I'm going to the zoo tomorrow" hold more weight in
establishing state of mind, than backwards-looking statements
about another's action such as "I've been poisoned."
Basically, in this case you have to rely on Shepard's
This case modified the Hillman Doctrine by saying that
only forward looking statements of intention can be used inferentially to
prove other matters which are in issue.
Backwards looking statements are now known as
See Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Hillmon (145 U.S. 285 (1982)).
This case was decided under the common law. Today it
would be governed by FRE 803(3).
FRE 803(3) specifically excludes statements of
memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed unless it
relates to the execution, revocation, identification, or terms of