A recent appellate case considered the “dying declaration” exception to the rule against hearsay evidence, among other things. The defendant was indicted for first-degree murder, armed robbery, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a person not permitted to have one. Before the trial, he moved to suppress the victim’s identification of him as the killer. The hearing judge suppressed the identification, and the State of Maryland appealed.
The murder victim, Melvin Pate, had identified his shooter to a registered nurse at a Shock Trauma Unit after the shooting before he died. He had been shot in the face and taken to the hospital to be stabilized. A few days later, he was sent to the Shock Trauma Unit in a critical and very unstable condition. His spinal cord was severed in his neck, which left him a quadriplegic. His lung had collapsed, and he was breathing with the help of a ventilator and eating through a feeding tube.
The issue in this case was whether the victim’s identification of the shooter’s photograph counted as a dying declaration exception to hearsay rules. Hearsay is “an out-of-court statement” that is introduced to prove the truth of what is being asserted. Hearsay evidence is not admissible unless an exception applies. One exception applies when somebody is unavailable as a witness and that person is making a statement with the belief of imminent death. This is called the “dying declaration exception.” Continue reading →