Welcome to our new weekly series, Friday Q&A. Each week our attorneys
will respond to a question selected from the many received by direct and
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During my brother’s trial, I heard the objection “Hearsay!”
used by both sides. After looking up definitions, I still don’t
understand what it means.
ANSWER: Hearsay has a popular definition and understanding, and a very specific
definition in a legal setting.
Ohio’s legal definition for hearsay is found in the
Ohio Rules of Evidence, Evidence Rule 801. The definition of Hearsay is controlled by the rules
of evidence because it relates to what can be introduced as evidence against
a defendant in a trial. The Rules of Evidence apply to and can be used
by both the prosecution and defense.
Hearsay is an out of court statement offered for the truth of the matter
asserted. In other words, hearsay is a statement that is made outside
of the setting of the trial it is being offered in; and that statement
is being offered in the trial as evidence, or as the truth. A good way
to recognize hearsay in court is any time a witness on the stand begins
to testify with the words “he said…” or “she
had told me that…” For example,
Prosecutor: What happened when you got to the night club?
Night Club Guest 1: We got in line to get in.
Prosecutor: There was a line to get into the club?
Night Club Guest 1: Yes. The Bouncer said some guy had–
A core principal of the American legal system is the right of the Defendant
to confront the witnesses whose testimony is to be used against him. In
our example, the Night Club Guest 1 must speak only about what she has
personal knowledge or experience – in other words, only the things
she saw or experienced. In order to learn what the night club Bouncer
may have known, the Bouncer must take the stand and testify about it,
so that the Defendant can cross-examine him through his Defense Attorney.
Hearsay can also be found in documents as well…but that’s
a topic for another day!