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Can a dead person’s statements be used against me at a criminal trial?

The answer to this question is yes in certain specific circumstances. Under current law, a criminal defendant has the right under the United States Constitution to confront those who testify against them. In other words, if a person accuses you of a crime, you have the right to confront that person in court. Therefore, accuser’s statements against you can not be allowed in court, unless the accuser is present and subject to cross examination.

However an exception to this general rule is whether the primary purpose of the accuser’s statement was to assist law enforcement in dealing with an ongoing emergency; rather than, for investigative purposes. For example, if a person is shot and is laying on the floor dying and the police officers arrive and ask him if he’s okay, and the victim responds with “John just shot me and he ran towards the parking lot, please stop him,” this will be characterized as a statement dealing with an ongoing emergency. If the victim later died and John is on trial for murder, the victim’s last statements stating that John shot him would come in as evidence against John because the victim’s statements were dealing with an ongoing emergency; the emergency was that a gunman was on the loose. Therefore, John would not have the ability to confront his accuser, since the victim is now dead, but the statements by the victim would come in as evidence against John to convict him of murder.

On the other hand, imagine that the victim was shot by John and the victim survived. Two days later the victim went to the police and during a police interview the victim stated “John shot me and he ran towards the parking lot to escape.” If the victim were to die the next day from an infection caused by his gun shot wound, the victim’s statements would not be allowed in court against John. That’s because the victim’s statements were for purposes of an ongoing investigation and not dealing with an ongoing emergency. In this case, the victim’s statements would not be admitted in court, unless, John had the right to confront the victim and cross examine the victim at his criminal trial. However, since the victim has died, the victim is not available to come to court and the statements can not be used against John to convict him.

As such, it is extremely important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can exclude these damaging statements against you at trial. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, you should contact our experienced defense attorneys at Wallin and Klarich. We have been protecting the rights of individuals accused of crimes for over three decades. You can call us at 1-877-466-5245, we will be there when you call.

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.