United States v. Barrett
539 F.2d 244 (1976)

  • Barrett was arrested on suspicion of stealing some rare stamps.
  • At trial, Barrett attempted to introduce the testimony of Melvin.
    • Melvin wanted to testify that a guy named Tilly told him that he had robbed the stamps and that Barrett was not involved.
      • Barrett argued that the testimony was not hearsay under FRE 804(b)(3) because Tilly was making incriminating comments against his own self-interest.
      • The prosecution argued that Tilly’s specific statement about Barrett’s involvement was not against his self-interest, so it was not admissible under the FRE 804(b)(3) exception.
    • By the time of the trial, Tilly was dead and could not be called to testify.
  • The Trial Judge did not allow the testimony to be admitted.
    • The Trial Judge found that only statements that are prejudicial to the declarant are admissible under FRE 804(b)(3).
  • The Trial Court found Barrett guilty.  He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that FRE 804(b)(3) asks whether:
      • The offered remarks come within the hearsay exception as a statement against interest because they imply that Tilley had knowledge of, and was therefore involved in, a crime.
      • If so, is there sufficient corroboration to clearly indicate trustworthiness?
    • The Appellate Court found that the remark did constitute a statement against interest and remanded to the Trial Court to determine if there is sufficient corroboration.
      • By saying that he knew Barrett was not involved, Tilley was incriminating himself by showing knowledge of who committed the crime.
  • The basic rule here is that a remark standing alone, may not be against interest, but the statement as a whole can be against interest.
    • Here, the exculpatory part concerning Barrett’s non-involvement coupled with Tilley’s inside information makes the statement against the interest of the declarant.