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Hearsay Evidence and Witness Testimony in Court Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2021

For any proposed evidence to be admissible in a court of law, it has to be of probative value and should be capable of being tested through cross-examination. In some instances, evidence might be of probative value; however, if it cannot be tested through cross-examination, it is deemed inadmissible. All the proceedings in the three case studies will be heard in a criminal court. The standard of proof in criminal proceedings is beyond unreasonable doubt. Hence, considerable weight is placed on the evidence being presented in front of the judge or jury. Moreover, the burden of proof lies on the shoulder of the prosecution. This means that the prosecution has to ensure that the evidence being presented is admissible and of high probative value, thus would lead to a conviction.

Hearsay Testimony and Its Admissibility in a Court of Law

Luigi, “the Pipe” Cardone, heard through the grapevine that Big Sal Salvatore has been telling everyone how he was told by Frankie “the Lip” Bonnano that Slippery Sally Genovese-Malone murdered Freddie “Fingers” Malone, her husband. Cardone wants a deal to testify against Slippery Sally.

Hearsay testimony is out-of-court evidence given by an individual who is not presented in court as a first-hand witness regarding words spoken, statements made, or documents generated (Keane & McKeown, 2014). A statement is only considered as hearsay if the objective of the testimony being presented is to prove the truth of its contents. Generally, hearsay is considered inadmissible as it constitutes second-hand information that cannot be subjected to cross-examination. Therefore, following the before mentioned attributes of hearsay, Luigi “the Pipe” Cardone’s testimony can be categorized as hearsay. Slippery Sally, as a suspect, is likely to face dire consequences when convicted of murder charges. Therefore, the court would not want to give a conviction based on gossip flying around town.

The court wants witnesses presenting reliable information so that the lawyers can cross-examine them to evaluate their honesty, potential mistakes, and possible bias. For instance, in case Slippery Sally is on trial for murder, Cardone’s testimony is a second-hand story. Hence, it is not substantial enough and lacks probative value in facilitating Slippery Sally’s murder conviction. The court requires Frankie Bonnano’s testimony as he is the first-hand witness of the alleged murder that occurred. Without Bonnano, the judge and jury cannot get the details of Slippery Sally’s actions.

Testimony Related to Privileged Communication

Tommy “Two Toes” D’Natalia has a certified public accountant (CPA). He has been using his accountant to wash ill-gotten gains from his racketeering. The SAC has a subpoena for the CPA. Natalia is claiming privileged communication with his CPA, and it prohibits the accountant from testifying.

Privileged communication is a legal principle that protects communication by restricting specific individuals in trusted relationships from disclosing contents of information shared in court proceedings (the State of Connecticut, 2019). There are several legal types of privileged communication; however, in reference to the three presented case studies, it is evident that the accountant-client privilege is the most prevalent one.

The accountant-client privilege prohibits the disclosure of confidential information exchanged between clients and their accountants (Balkin, 2015). It is similar to attorney-client confidentiality, but it has a more limited scope. Individuals seeking legal advice from an accountant expect to receive reasonable protection for the information shared. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions. According to IRC § 7525 2 (b), in federal court, when communication between a client and his or her accountant is made to promote a crime or fraud, in other words, criminal conduct, the communication ceases to be privileged.

Therefore, in the case of Tommy “Two Toes” D’Natalia, the communication between him and his CPA cannot be regarded as privileged since they are both committing a crime. The money he has is generated from his criminal activities, that is, racketeering. Furthermore, he has hired a CPA to launder the ill-gotten gains. The CPA thus acts as an accomplice in his money-laundering activities. According to federal law, racketeering and money laundering are regarded as criminal offenses.

Moreover, taking into consideration that business or official records are among the exempted sources of hearsay evidence, the prosecution can subpoena D’Natalia’s business records to evaluate whether he is participating in money-laundering activities.

How the Best Evidence Rule Functions in Relationship to the Witness Testimony Being Proffered

Lawrence ‘Lucky’ Livorno drove the getaway car for a jewelry store heist. Bertram “Bugsy” Bertoli and Little Carmine D’Angelo went in and robbed the store. During the robbery, Bertoli shot and killed the store owner. D’Angelo and Livorno both want to testify to avoid the death penalty.

The best evidence rule applies when a party seeks to provide original writing, recording, or photographic evidence in court, but the original is not available. Hence, a copy is used (Legal Information Institute, 2019). Therefore, the best evidence rule in relation to the witness testimony being proffered applies heavily to Lawrence ‘Lucky’ Livorno. This is because although Livorno was an accessory to the robbery and murder, he did not witness the shooting first-hand. The only information about the murder that he had was obtained from D’Angelo’s narration of the robbery. Hence, Livorno’s testimony can be regarded as hearsay.

Moreover, considering the best evidence rule, Livorno’s testimony can be referred to as the copy. On the other hand, D’Angelo’s testimony can be referred to as the original. This is because D’Angelo was present in the store and observed the shooting first-hand. Therefore, when applying the best evidence rule, the copy can only be considered admissible if only the original is absent, whereby in this case, the original is present. Livorno’s testimony against Bertoli is regarded to be of less probative value hence inadmissible. Only D’Angelo’s testimony can be used to convict Bertoli. Moreover, Livorno’s preferred testimony will have a limited impact on the death penalty. Conversely, for D’Angelo, his testimony might likely help him avoid the death penalty.

References

Balkin, K. J. (2015). The accountant-client privilege in multidistrict litigation: An efficient federal common law solution. University of Maine Law Review, 69 (833), 833-860.

Keane, A. & McKeown. (2014). The modern law of evidence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Legal Information Institute. (2019). . Web.

State of Connecticut. (2019). Privileged communications. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Hearsay Evidence and Witness Testimony in Court'. 2 June.

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