United States v. Hernandez
750 F.2d 1256 (1985)

  • Hernandez was arrested for selling drugs to an informant named Gholson.
    • Gholson was a professional informant.
    • Hernandez argued that Gholson planted the drugs in order to get paid by the police.
  • At trial, a DEA agent testified that they were initially told Hernandez was a drug dealer by some person at the Customs Dept.
    • That person as never identified.
    • Hernandez objected on the grounds that this was hearsay.
      • The prosecution argued that the evidence was just to show the state of mind of the DEA agent.  It wasn’t to prove a fact.
    • The Court allowed the testimony.
  • During closing arguments, the prosecutor repeated the accusation of the unknown Customs Dept. source that Hernandez was a known drug trafficker.
  • The Trial Court convicted Hernandez of drug possession and intent to sell.  Hernandez appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed the conviction.
    • The Appellate Court found that the statements were used as evidence of Hernandez’s guilt, and were therefore inadmissible because they were hearsay.
      • Basically, statements made by the unknown Customs agent helped convince the jury that Hernandez was guilty.  However, Hernandez never had an opportunity to cross-examine the Customs agent or otherwise impeach his credibility.  Therefore, the evidence was hearsay.
  • Theoretically, if Hernandez had argued the defense of entrapment, then the reasons DEA became interested in him would be relevant, and the statements could be admitted.  They would not be offered for the statement’s truth, but as to why the DEA began the investigation.