In a recent Philadelphia murder trial, firm partner and top rated Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, David Nenner, Esq., made objections and legal arguments that allowed his client to later successfully appeal his conviction. The appellate court awarded the defendant a new trial due to the errors made by the trial court. Below is a discussion of the trial court’s errors and objections raised during trial.
To learn more about the facts of the case, click here.
One of the witnesses called by the prosecution was the victim’s brother. During trial, he testified that his brother (victim) told him that he stole cocaine from the defendant and showed him the cocaine. In addition, the victim’s brother testified that the lyrics of the defendant’s song “Take It How You Wanna” were about his brother stealing defendant’s cocaine. The lyrics also included a threat to kill the person responsible.
During trial, Mr. Nenner objected to the witness’s testimony with respect to the victim’s statements and defendant’s song lyrics. The victim’s statements were hearsay and irrelevant, which are inadmissible per PA rules of evidence.
Hearsay is an out of court statement made for the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. Because the person who made the statements is not in court, the opposing side cannot cross-examine him or her.
There are exceptions to the hearsay rule, and one of them is the state of mind exception. A hearsay statement may be admitted into evidence if it is to establish the declarant’s state of mind and not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
At trial, the prosecution argued that the victim’s hearsay statement was admissible because it established his state of mind, i.e., the victim feared the defendant, and established a motive for the victim’s murder.
The trial court held that the victim’s statement was allowed because it is circumstantial evidence of the victim’s fear of the defendant, which established his state of mind, but the statement could not be admitted as substantive evidence of the theft of the cocaine.
Mr. Nenner’s objected to the victim’s statement because the statement was being offered for its truth, i.e., the defendant had motive to kill the victim. Even if the statement was being offered to show the victim’s state of mind, it was irrelevant to the issue of the case.
The appellate court found that the trial court made an error by allowing the victim’s hearsay statement and agreed that the statement was being offered for the truth and that the victim’s statement of mind was irrelevant.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this article which discusses Mr. Nenner’s objections over the admissibility of the defendant’s song lyrics which helped the defendant win his appeal.
Related: PA Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) Petitions
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer
David Nenner is a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who handles cases such as homicide, gun possession and drug charges in Philadelphia. If you have a question about your case, schedule a FREE consultation with Mr. Nenner. 215.564.0644
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