Hearsay Exceptions: State Of Mind 

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Hearsay Exceptions: State Of Mind - Judge's hand holding wooden hammer

Trial Lawyer

As an experienced trial lawyer explains, a hearsay exception that would admit an out-of-court statement used for the truth of the matter asserted is state of mind. This hearsay exception can be admitted regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness or not. Federal Rule of Evidence 803(3) governs the state of mind exception. The rule reads as follows: “The following are not excluded by the rule against hearsay, regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness: (3) A statement of the declarant’s then-existing state of mind (such as motive, intent, or plan), or emotional, sensory, or physical condition. 

However, it does not include a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact that was remembered or believed unless it relates to the validity or terms of the declarant’s will.” First, the statement is allowed for admittance as an out-of-court statement that relates to motive, intent, or planning. It also allows an emotional aspect of a statement to be admitted as an out-of-court statement to use for the truth of the matter asserted, such as pain, feeling, and bodily health. The rule does not allow the admission of a belief or memory to prove the truth of the matter asserted. However, if the statement can be used for a purpose besides the truth of the matter asserted, it may be allowed to be admitted, just not under the hearsay exception.

The state of mind exception for hearsay includes emotional stress and cognitive schemes. If the statement contains a portion that falls within the exception and a portion that does not comply with the requirements of the exception, the court may be able to redact the portions that are not under the notion of the exception and admit the portion that is. The admitting of circumstantial evidence of the declarant’s mental condition would not align with the hearsay exception because the evidence would not be considered hearsay. The second portion of the rule algins with the red herring fallacy and introduces statements regarding external facts or events. Lastly, the length of time regarding a person’s state of mind is subject to Rule 403’s balancing test, which determines whether the statement if in the exception is unfairly prejudicial.

Thanks to Eglet Adams, for their insight on state of mind as a hearsay exception.