The People v. Moore: A Hearsay Exception Is Proof of Guilt!

The People v. Moore: A Hearsay Exception Is Proof of Guilt! by Saul Bienenfeld

Imagine a criminal court case where hearsay is the evidence used to implicate the defendant, the victim of the crime was not present at the trial, and a guilty verdict was rendered! Almost always, a case like this would be dismissed, primarily because it is challenging to win a case without  victim cooperation and because hearsay is not always credible. 

But there are exceptions. 

The landmark case of The People v. Moore (2015) proved that a hearsay exception can be used to convict a defendant of a crime. 

What is hearsay & what are hearsay exceptions?

Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted; it is not a statement given under oath in court. The person who is reporting the hearsay is present in the courtroom — not the person who said it. Therefore, there is no way to ensure its credibility. Hearsay is generally not admissible as evidence in trials because there is no way to test for accuracy

However, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule. The courts have determined that there are specific circumstances in which people predominantly speak truthfully. The court has outlined multiple types of exceptions including:

1. The dying declaration exception: When a person knows he/she is about to die, he/she is probably going to tell the truth.

2. The excited utterance exception: When a person experiences a trauma and is in the heat of the moment, he/she does not have time to reflect on whether the statement is true or false, and so, the statement is thereby deemed true.

A single hearsay statement — admissible as an excited utterance — was used to convict the defendant in case The People v. Moore, a non-jury trial.

Here are the facts: A police officer, on regular patrol, was flagged down by the victim in the street. As the officer came out of her car, she saw that the victim was distraught and bleeding from the left side of her bruised and swollen face. The police officer asked, “What’s wrong?” and the victim pointed to the defendant, who was standing amongst a group of people, and stated, “He assaulted me!

The district attorney could not get the victim to testify; therefore, the statement “He assaulted me,” was put in as an exception to the hearsay rule.

The defendant’s attorney moved to dismiss the case, asserting that the statement was conclusory as opposed to an excited utterance because it was unclear how much time had lapsed since the victim had been hurt.

Ultimately, the judge stated that he would “reserve the decision,” but then returned with a guilty verdict for attempted assault.

This verdict was compromised, so the defendant appealed the decision based on:

  1. Inadmissible hearsay
  2. No proof of intent (proving intent is required for an intentional crime)

When this case reached the appellate court, the initial ruling was upheld.

The appellate court agreed that the spontaneity of the victim’s declaration (“He assaulted me!”) guaranteed its trustworthiness and reliability. Moreover, this court concurred that the facts of the case, i.e., the victim was still bleeding at the time of her statement, proved that there was little time to contrive or misrepresent what occurred. The hearsay statement was allowed in as an exception to the rule.

Furthermore, the appellate court ruled on the issue of intent. Based on the conduct itself and the surrounding circumstances, the court found the proof legally sufficient to support an inference that the defendant perpetrated the physical injuries. Although there was no direct evidence of the defendant’s mental state, an inference is permitted when a person intends the natural consequences of his or her acts, and that was enough to prove intent in this situation.

In the case of The People v. Moore, the verdict stood firm; it was not reversed.

This is truly a fascinating case: one witness, no testifying victim, one statement that is within an exception, and a guilty verdict! It rarely happens that a hearsay statement that comes within an exception is enough to find someone guilty … but here it is!

Do you think this hearsay exception was used fairly?

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, you better call Saul! (212) 363-7701.

Saul Bienenfeld, Criminal Defense Attorney

Saul Bienenfeld P.C.
450 Seventh Ave.
Suite 1408
New York, NY 10123

About Saul Bienenfeld
Former Assistant District Attorney For The Special Narcotics Bureau, with Over 25 Years Experience As A Successful Criminal Defense Attorney in New York. When you're in trouble, you better call Saul! The Law Offices of Saul Bienenfeld P.C. is dedicated to helping clients receive justice. As your personal law firm, we take the time necessary to fully understand your situation, ensuring that all of your legal needs are met. Your peace of mind is important to us, which is why we are always available to assist you. As a law firm designed specifically for the people, the Law Offices of Saul Bienenfeld P.C. is always ready to help out his fellow New Yorkers. We take each of our cases to heart and work as a team for you.

3 Responses to The People v. Moore: A Hearsay Exception Is Proof of Guilt!

  1. Pingback: The People v. Moore: A Hearsay Exception Is Proof of Guilt! | Saul Bienenfeld

  2. Nicole says:

    The guilty verdict is faulty. If the victim never testified, how did he get identified as the doer? He was standing with a group of other people. How would anyone know she was talking about the defendant and not one of the other people?

    And even if the Judge agreed that the hearsay was admissible, how did he or she get around Crawford? Why didn’t defense counsel raise confrontation as an issue before the higher court?


  3. We have been dealing with this exception to Crawford for years in California. In Domestic Violence cases, if the Defendant is identified at the scene and there is an excited utterance, that evidence has been admitted. This is limited here to Domestic Violence cases, but certainly pushes the Confrontation Clause to it’s outer limits!


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