Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Judge rules statements made by dying woman to friend, physician admissible at trial

September 20, 2006


A dying woman's statements to police can't be used in court, but similar statements she made to an emergency room doctor and a friend can be presented as evidence.

That's the essence of a ruling Tuesday in the case of Christopher A. Belone, who's charged with murdering his girlfriend, Linda Begay, this summer in a domestic violence beating at Gaslight Village mobile home park, 1900 W. 31st St.

Judge Jack Murphy ruled that the statements Begay made to a friend, Keith Bowers, and to Lawrence Memorial Hospital physician Dr. Ryan Davis can be used in court. She told both men shortly after she was injured that Belone had beaten her with a two-by-four.

Even though those statements are considered "hearsay" under rules of evidence because Begay is not available for cross-examination, Murphy found they fit within an exception for "nontestimonial" hearsay and ordered they could be used.

He wrote the statements "were not made as part of any Court proceedings or police investigations but were made in the normal course of events that followed her severe beating."

But under a 2004 Supreme Court case, Crawford v. Washington, similar statements to police are considered "testimonial" hearsay, and there's a higher standard for allowing them to be used in court.

"The interviews of Ms. Begay by Officers (Micah) Stegall and (Anthony) Brixious and his recording of them clearly are testimonial hearsay as part of a police interrogation : such testimonial hearsay is not admissible because the accused will not have the right to cross-examine Ms. Begay at trial," Murphy wrote.

To get past that legal hurdle, Dist. Atty. Charles Branson's office had to show it was more likely than not that Belone caused Begay to be unavailable as a witness. But Murphy found the state didn't meet that burden during a two-part hearing earlier this month.

Murphy wrote that "the State offered no evidence by way of a witness or physical evidence that would place the defendant at the location of the beating."

A man who may have been in the home at the time of the beating has not yet testified.

"Upon Belone's arrest, no examination or photographs were taken to determine if he had any injuries that might be attributable to the altercation," Murphy wrote. "There has been no physical evidence offered such as fingerprints or blood traces to connect the defendant to the beating. : In this case, there is no evidence presented that establishes that the defendant was even present at the time of the beating."

Branson said his office is awaiting more crime lab results and that he would seek again to have Begay's statements to police admitted when those results arrive.

"We're asking the KBI lab to put a rush on it," Branson said.

Belone was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Tuesday - in which prosecutors put on a portion of their case for a judge to decide if there's enough evidence for trial - but it was rescheduled for Oct. 13.


KS 11 years, 6 months ago

I support this decision. Why would someone lie when on their death bed? I think this is entirely within the law.

trinity 11 years, 6 months ago

i guess you and i read different articles, sybil. i can't find where anything is said that would suggest the prosecutor tried to convince "people" that the "interview" was recorded. there was a recorded interview with LE; and on a seperate event of statements made to a doctor&someone else at the hospital.

i'm supportive of the decision to allow her statement to the doctor&her friend, also.

MyName 11 years, 6 months ago

The point is the Prosecutor lead the people to belive it was a recorded interview with law Enforcement. Now it was Doctor and one other. I can see where this type of thing could set a precedence for "he said she said" being allowed across the board. If this happens then we can expect that resonable doubt will no longer have a place in the Legal Process.

There was a recorded interview with the police, but the judge ruled that it was not admissible. If you read (and comprehended) the article above, you'd understand that. The article also said that the statements made by the woman to the doctor and the friend were ruled to be admissible. This ruling is completely fair. It says that some types of hearsay are inadmissible and some are, and it draws a bright line between the two kinds.

The general rule of evidence is that if it's part of an official court investigation, that is if it's "testimonial" (like a deposition, a police investigation, etc), then there needs to be opportunity for cross examination. However if it is not part of an official function, and it is shown to be likely to be truthful, than it is admissible. This website explains the rule fairly well:

badger 11 years, 6 months ago

I know there's a lot of rules around allowing 'dying utterances' to be admissible without crossing the 'hearsay' line. I guess this is one of them.

It seems reasonable to me that a doctor who would be testifying about the extent of her injuries could include statements she made about how they got them. I know that when I've gone to the doctor, they asked me how I got my injuries, and put that in the report to become part of my medical records. Maybe that has something to do with why his testimony can be in, I don't know.

Apart from what it says in the article, that there's a lower standard for hearsay when it comes to non-police interactions (I wonder why that is? I'd think a taped statement given to law enforcement would be reasonable. Maybe something about the defendant's lawyer not being present, which I think they're supposed to during depositions?), I don't know much about hearsay rules.

Any of our reasonably sane legal-eagle types able to explain it a little more thoroughly?

geekin_topekan 11 years, 6 months ago

Lyn Begay is dead.Driven for her home by childish tyranny and killed by repeated and severe beatings by Belone. The defense will try to dazzle you with stories of drunken indians and cloud the issue with words like "can't remember" and "hearsay".The defense will paint a picture of Lyn's weaker moments to somehow attempting to justify or belittle the act of beating a woman. Regardless of the truth Belone's attorney will try to convince you that the only truth in this case was from the victims own dying words when she incoherent from heavy drinking and fearful confusion. But in the end Lyn will still be dead.Driven from her home by childish tyranny and killed by repeated severe beatings by Belone.

astarte 11 years, 6 months ago

Belone gave up his "right" to cross.

He gave it up by brutally beating a HUMAN BEING, a WOMAN...a MOTHER...with a TWO-BY-FOUR PIECE OF LUMBER.

And we, as a community, failed this woman.


Yep, that's a SURE sign of a wrongful accusation.

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