Musson v. State, 2D14-1438 (January 22, 2016)
Second District ordered a new trial for a defendant sentenced to life for kidnapping because the court improperly excluded a defense witness on hearsay grounds.
The defendant maintained that although she was present at the scene of the kidnapping, she took no active role, and was not even aware of the victim’s presence. Her co-defendant accepted a plea with the state and testified against her at trial. She attempted to present testimony from a third-party who had a conversation with the co-defendant during transport in a police vehicle. The third-party would have testified that she heard the co-defendant say that he would blame the defendant for the entire incident because she was an “easy target,” and he threatened to kill her. The Trial Court excluded the testimony after concluding that the third-party’s statements were hearsay.
The Second District reversed because the statements did not constitute hearsay. Here, the statements were introduced for the purpose of impeaching the credibility of a key state witness. Statements used for such purpose are not introduced for the truth of the matter, and are admissible. Because the case ultimately turned on a credibility contest, and because the testimony would have impacted the credibility of the state’s key witness, the error was harmful and a new trial required.