Knapp v. State
168 Ind. 153, 79 N.E. 1076 (1907)

  • Kanpp was accused of murdering a police officer.
    • In his defense, he offered testimony that it was self-defense.
      • Knapp stated that he’d heard a story (from some unidentified person) about how the police officer had beaten an old man to death.
    • In rebuttal, the State offered evidence that the old man died of “senility and alcoholism” not from being beaten by the police officer.
  • The Trial Court found Knapp guilty.  He appealed.
    • Knapp argued that the testimony about what really killed the old man should not have been admitted.
      • He argued that the facts of the old man’s death were not relevant, only whether Knapp had heard and believed the story about the old man’s death.
  • The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with Knapp that the true question was whether Knapp had heard the story, not the actual facts of the old man’s death.
    • However, the Court felt that the testimony about the old man’s death was relevant because it showed that somewhere between the fact and the testimony there was a person who was not a truth speaker.
      • Since Knapp couldn’t point to who told him the story, the implication was that Knapp’s claim wasn’t probably telling the truth.
  • Even if there had been a witness that testified that they personally told Knapp that the old man was beaten to death, evidence about whether the cop actually killed the old man is still relevant, because it is for the jury to decide how much weight to give to the witness’ testimony.
    • The jury was free to believe that Knapp had genuinely thought that the cop killed the old man.  The job of the jury is to listen to opposing arguments and make a decision on who to believe.