Brief Fact Summary. A Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) agent and an informant went undercover in order to obtain evidence sufficient to arrest the defendant on charges of cocaine trafficking.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An out of court statement made by someone other then the declarant, which is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, namely that someone is in fact guilty of criminal charges, is hearsay, and may be so prejudicial as to warrant reversal of a resultant conviction on those charges.
Issue. Whether the statements by the agent that another agency had tipped off the DEA that the defendant was drug smuggler constituted reversible error?
Held. Yes. The statements were made out of court by someone other then the declarant, and they were offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. They were not offered to prove state of mind, which was irrelevant, but rather to show that the defendant was, in fact, a drug smuggler. These statements were inadmissible under Federal Rules of Evidence (“F.R.E.”) Rules 802, 403 and 404(b).
Discussion. The statements made by someone else to the DEA agent were out of court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Even if it were accepted that the statements were offered for some non-hearsay reason, the statements were still overly prejudicial as compared to their probativeness, failing the F.R.E. Rule 403 balancing test. Moreover, evidence of past crimes to show propensity was inadmissible under F.R.E Rule 404(b). As a result, the statements constituted reversible error and the conviction was overturned.