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Commonwealth v. Weichell | 465 U.S. 1032 (1984)
Hearsay is a statement made outside of court proceedings, offered as evidence at trial to prove the truth of what it says. The general rule is that hearsay isn’t admissible because it’s considered unreliable, but the rule has numerous exceptions. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered whether the hearsay rule applied in Commonwealth versus Weichell.
John Foley and some friends were walking in the park at midnight, after seeing a movie. Foley heard four shots and saw a man run out of a parking lot across the street. One of Foley’s friends screamed, and the man turned briefly to face the group while still running. Foley could see the man’s face under a streetlight for about a second. Foley and a friend crossed the street to the parking lot, where they found Robert LaMonica’s body on the ground.
Foley described the man he’d seen to the police that same night. Later the next morning, he helped a detective put together a composite sketch of the man based upon his description. Foley asked for some changes to the sketch, after which he was satisfied that it looked like the person he’d seen.
Frederick Weichell was arrested and charged with LaMonica’s murder. At trial, Foley identified Weichell as the man he’d seen running from the park. The composite sketch Foley made with the detective was admitted into evidence for the limited purpose of corroborating Foley’s identification. Weichell was convicted of first-degree murder and appealed his conviction to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Weichell argued that the trial court erred in admitting the composite sketch because the sketch was inadmissible hearsay.
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