State v. English
201 N.C. 295, 159 S.E. 318 (1931)

  • English was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife.
  • At Trial, English offered evidence that the day after the murder, the police arrested a guy named Locke, who admitted to three policemen that he had committed the murder English was accused of.
    • However, the police had let Locke go, and Locke’s whereabouts were unknown, so he could not be called to testify at trial.
  • The Trial Court refused to admit the evidence about Locke’s confession on the grounds that it was hearsay.
  • The Trial Court convicted English.  He appealed.
    • English argued that the testimony about Locke should have been admitted.
  • The North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The North Carolina Supreme Court found that the testimony of a third party (Locke), not under oath, was hearsay.
      • Basically, just because Locke said he did it, it didn’t mean he did and had no bearing on whether or not English committed the crime.
  • The basic reason why testimony like this isn’t admissible is that the prosecution had no way to cross-examine Locke, or to question him to determine if his claim was credible.
    • Locke could have been a raving lunatic, but the jury would have no way of knowing that unless he testified.
  • Historically, courts have not admitted this sort of testimony because they worried that a rich defendant would pay someone to claim they committed the crime, thereby exonerating the defendant.