How a Tip Reversed a Criminal ConvictionAuthor: Portner & Shure
In 2010, crime tipster group known as Crime Solvers made statements to a detective, which led to the investigation of a defendant in a robbery (Swann v. Commonwealth (Felton) No. 0562-13-4, Aug. 19, 2014). The statements were made to the detective after the detective asked members of the public for any information they had with regard to that robbery.
At the defendant's trial, the detective's testimony included information given to him by Crime Solvers. His statements went beyond simply testifying that the investigation on the defendant went further than their investigations on other suspects because of the tip they received. The detective's testimony was used to establish the truth behind the statements. The difference is slim, but this minute difference blew the entire trial.
Within the rules of evidence, hearsay evidence is not allowed, meaning, statements of witnesses may only pertain to what that witness heard or saw for themselves. Witnesses may not offer into evidence what someone else said to them about the incident to be used for the truth in the statement. Meaning, it is okay for the detective to tell the jury what Crime Solvers told them in their tip to explain why they further investigated this defendant in particular, but he cannot assert that the tips given to them were actually true.
Thus, the detective offered hearsay testimony by Crime Solvers into evidence that could not be cross-examined that directly implicated the defendant as the one who committed the robbery. Because the evidence may have contributed to the defendant's conviction, his conviction was reversed and remanded just this month.
The rules of evidence within a trial are extremely detailed and complicated. It is advised that you seek an experienced personal injury attorney to help in your criminal case. As seen in this example, many attorneys do not even understand the minute details of the rules of evidence. Because of this, it is essential that you seek a knowledgeable and experienced criminal attorney. The experienced Virginia criminal defense attorneys at Portner & Shure are one of the best in the area. In fact, TIME magazine recognized Jonathan Portner in their 2013 Excellence in Law feature in the area of criminal law. Call (855) 954-4141 today for a free consultation.