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Betts v. Betts

    Brief Fact Summary. Michael Betts and his former wife, Rita, divorced in California and Rita moved to Washington with Tracey Lynn, their five-year old daughter, and their son, James. James, 2 years old, died a week after Rita and the children began living with another man. James died of multiple injuries.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The hearsay evidence rule prohibits the use of testimony in court of a statement made by another person out of court which is offered to show the truth of the matter asserted.

    Facts. Michael Betts and his former wife, Rita, divorced in California and Rita moved to Washington with Tracey Lynn, their five-year old daughter, and their son, James. James, 2 years old, died a week after Rita and the children began living with Raymond Caporale. James died from internal injuries and multiple bruises on the head and body. Caporale was charged with second-degree murder, but he was acquitted. Michael Betts moved to Washington and remarried. Rita married Caporale and moved to California. Tracey Lynn lived in a foster home in Washington as she was placed in protective custody after the death of James. Michael Betts sued his former wife Rita over the custody of their five year old daughter, Tracey Lynn. He was awarded custody and Rita appeals the judgment. Rita argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence from Tracey Lynn’s foster mother. Her foster mother testified about Tracey Lynn’s reaction to the news that her mother married Caporale. The fost
    er mother testified that Tracey Lynn made several statements indicating Caporale killed her brother.

    Issue. Did the testimony by the foster mother violate the hearsay rule in that she testified as to various statements made by Tracey Lynn regarding Caporale and her brother’s death?

    Held. Chief Justice Armstrong issued the opinion for the Washington Court of Appeals in holding that the foster mother’s testimony did not violate the hearsay evidence rule.

    Concurrence. Justices Pearson and Petrie concurred in the judgment but did not issue a separate opinion.

    Discussion. The statements of Tracey Lynn were not admitted to prove that Caporale killed her brother. The statements are not hearsay because they were admitted to show the state of mind of Tracey Lynn regardless of the truth of the statements.


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