One of the protections afforded criminal defendants is the prohibiting of hearsay testimony as evidence of a crime. While there are certain exceptions to the rule against hearsay, they are strictly construed. As shown in a recent case ruled on by a District Court of Appeal of Florida, if a trial court erroneously allows the admission of hearsay evidence, it can result in a conviction being overturned. If you live in Clearwater and are charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney to help you retain your rights.
Allegedly, the defendant went to the apartment of his friend’s neighbors to question them about reportedly harassing his friend. It is undisputed that the neighbors’ door was knocked down, the defendant entered the apartment, a fight ensued, and a gun was discharged. The exact details of what happened after the defendant arrived at the neighbor’s apartment were disputed, however. Following the incident, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes.
At the trial, the defendant testified that he asked the neighbors to leave his friend alone, accidentally knocked the door down, and was pulled into the apartment, and one of the neighbors’ had a gun that discharged. In contrast, the neighbors testified that the defendant kicked in the door, pointed a gun at them, assaulted them, and discharged the gun. The defendant’s friend did not testify at the trial. The state admitted out-of-court statements made by the friend into evidence at the trial, despite objections by the defendant’s counsel that they constituted hearsay. The statements indicated the friend was going to send someone to “put a cap in” the neighbors and beat them up. The state argued these statements were evidence the defendant intended to assault the neighbors when he went to their apartment. The defendant was ultimately convicted of burglary of an occupied dwelling and assault, but the jury specifically found that the defendant did not use or possess a firearm or commit a battery. The defendant appealed, arguing the evidence regarding his friend’s out-of-court statements constituted inadmissible hearsay.