Tome and his wife were divorced. Tome had primary custody
of their daughter. Tome's ex-wife attempted to get primary custody, but
the Court refused her request.
Tome's ex-wife contacted the police alleging that Tome was
sexually abusing their daughter.
Tome argued that the allegations were false and were made
by his ex-wife so she could get custody.
At Trial, the prosecution put the 6 year old daughter on
the witness stand, but she was reluctant to answer the questions.
The prosecution then produced six witnesses who testified
about what the daughter had told them out of court.
Traditionally, out of court statements are inadmissible
on the grounds they are hearsay.
However, FRE 801(d)(1) gives an exception that
allows prior statements made by a witness to be used under certain
Since the witness is testifying, the opposing counsel
has the opportunity to cross examine them about the statements,
therefore avoiding the major problem with hearsay evidence.
In this case, exception FRE 801(d)(1)(B), which
allows for prior statements to be used to rebut the accusation that the declarant
is fabricating their testimony.
Tome objected on the ground that the statements by his
daughter were made after the alleged motive to fabricate arose.
The Trial Court found Tome guilty of abusing his
daughter. He appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed. Tome appealed.
The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found that the traditional common
law rule (prior to the FRE) was that prior statements introduced
to rebut a charge of fabrication or improper influence were admissible if
the statement had been made before the alleged fabrication came
into being, but inadmissible afterwards.
Basically, Tome's ex-wife had a motive to encourage her
daughter to lie after she lost the custody hearing. If the daughter's
statements had been made prior to that, they would be admissible because
they could be presumed to be true, but after the custody hearing, the
daughter statements would be suspect.
In a dissent, it was argued that this case wasn't about hearsay
at all, but instead was about relevance. Basically, statements
made after the motive to fabricate may not be relevant to rebutting
an allegation of fabrication. However, it isn't an issue that is covered
by the hearsay rules (FRE 801-804), but instead should be
governed by the relevancy rules (FRE 401-415).
Basically, the Trial Judge should determine if this sort
of evidence is admissible on the basis of relevance, not on the
basis of whether they meet this specific hearsay exception.