State v. Jones
311 Md. 23, 532 A.2d 169 (1987)

  • Jones was a police officer who pulled a woman over for driving with a broken taillight. She claimed he sexually assaulted her.
    • The woman claimed that after the assault, Jones fled the scene in his police car with his headlights off.
    • Jones claimed that he didn’t touch the woman, and that he did not flee the scene with his headlights off.
  • Turns out, another police officer was nearby listening to a CB radio.  He heard two unknown truckers having a conversation about seeing a police car speeding down the road with its headlights off.
  • The prosecutor introduced the evidence of the CB radio conversation.
    • Jones objected on the grounds that the conversation was hearsay.
    • The prosecution argued that it was an exception to hearsay because it was a present sense impression.
      • A present sense impression is a statement describing or explaining an event of condition made while the declarant was perceiving the event or condition.
      • See FRE 803(1).
    • Jones argued that the declarant must be speaking from personal knowledge, and there was no way that the police officer could know whether the trucker was really witnessing the event.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the evidence to be admitted under the present sense impression exception.
  • Jones was found guilty of sexual assault.  He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court overturned the verdict.
    • The Appellate Court rejected the evidence because there was no witness to provide corroboration.
    • In addition, the Appellate Court found that the evidence was not relevant.
  • The Maryland Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court.
    • The Maryland Supreme Court noted that a present sense impression must be contemporaneous with the event it describes.
    • The Court found that in some cases (like this one) the statement itself, or other circumstantial evidence demonstrates that the declarant is perceiving the event (aka has personal knowledge).  Therefore, the evidence meets the exception, regardless of whether or not the declarant is identified.
      • Some courts had required a second, equally percipient witness to provide corroboration, but this court (and the FRE) decided that was not necessary.
      • If the unnamed trucker had said, “I heard there was a police car speeding with its lights off,” that would not be admissible because the trucker is admitting he didn’t personally see the event.
    • The Court found corroboration that the declarant really said the things that the witness said he said is not required, since the witness (the police officer) was on the stand and could be cross-examined.