Witness: And then my neighbor said that he was f….
Lawyer: Objection, your Honor. Hearsay.
Judge: Sustained. Don’t tell me what somebody said.
Hearsay happens everyday. Hearsay, by definition, is any out of Court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Huh? Yep, legal mumbo-jumbo. Think of hearsay as ANYTHING that is said outside of the Courtroom by ANYBODY. It also includes writings, documents and many, many things, but that is a blog for another day. Today it’s about testimony.
Most commonly hearsay occurs anytime a witness is telling their story. It is very difficult to tell what happened and who did what without saying what was said. This is very frustrating for witnesses, irritating for Judges and something a lot of attorneys woefully ill prepare for. If you are a witness testifying just know that you cannot say what somebody else said unless they are a party in the case.
So, when mom is testifying about how upset little johnny was when dad dropped him off late for the baseball game, but mom did not see it and was relying on the assistant coach telling her, she can’t say what the assistant coach told her. Either the assistant coach has to come testify or mom has to describe little johnny after the game. “He came home sullen, eyes red, as if he’d been crying.” Little Johnny told her what happened. So she called dad. Now she can talk about the call with dad and who said what because they are the parties. Confused yet?
Hearsay and testimony is something you need to practice handling with your attorney. You may always describe what you did and said and this is the way around hearsay and/or having the other witnesses involved testify.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney and encourages you to practice your testimony and telling your story without saying what somebody else said.