Dying Declarations In Texas Murder Cases
A murder case in Pennsylvania focuses on an interesting hearsay exception that sometimes comes up in murder cases. The exception is called a “Dying Declaration“. In this particular case Darren Morales was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. The victim had her throat cut but before dying told a friend who was trying to save her life that her boyfriend “killed her”. She died shortly after she made the statement.
Normally an out of court statement by a victim isn’t admissible unless there is a specific hearsay exception. In this case that exception is called the dying declaration. The Texas rule is found in Texas Rules of Evidence 804(b)(2). “Statement Under the Belief of Imminent Death. In a prosecution for homicide or in a civil case, a statement that the declarant, while believing the declarant’s death to be imminent, made about its cause or circumstances.” Almost all jurisdictions have a similar hearsay exception. The courts admit this type of hearsay because they reason it is reliable. The logic is if a person knows they are about to die they won’t falsely accuse a person for being responsible for their death.
The statement isn’t automatically admitted into evidence. The defense should always ask for a hearing outside the juries presence for the trial court to determine if the statement is admissible. Ideally this hearing should take place at a pretrial hearing so that the defense will know before jury selection if the statement is coming into evidence. This will allow the criminal defense attorney to plan how he will conduct jury selection and cross-examination.