State High Court Upholds "Hearsay" Testimony
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 9, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--Statements that people with mental disabilities make to others can be used as evidence in court, except when they give those statements to police, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled.
In a 4-3 decision Thursday, the state's high court reversed an appeals court's ruling, which struck down a law that had allowed such "hearsay" testimony in certain circumstances.
According to the Associated Press, the case before the court involved a woman, described as having "a mental age of a 10-year-old", who in 1999 told a teacher that she had been raped by her school bus driver. This ruling would allow the teacher to testify as to what the woman had told her.
Many states do not allow second-hand statements from care providers or others under the belief that such testimony violates defendants' right to confront their accusers. Many prosecutors have argued, however, that banning hearsay testimony puts people with disabilities at higher risk of being victimized because they might not be willing or able to confront the alleged perpetrators.
"Issue of hearsay from mentally disabled splits justices" (Associated Press via Miami Herald)