Civil Procedure Keyed to Cound
Chambers v. Mississippi
Two police officers attempted to arrest somebody in a bar, but their attempts were frustrated by a group of bar patrons. The officers called for back up and one of the two officers brought a riot rifle into the bar. Three other officers arrived and they attempted to arrest the same individual. Once again, the bar patrons did not allow them to do so. Shortly thereafter, the shooting began. One of the original two police officers was shot and killed, but after being shot and before dying, he shot the Petitioner. During trial, one of the officers at the scene testified that he saw the Petitioner shoot the officer who was killed. Another deputy testified that although he could not see a gun in the Petitioner’s, hand he saw the Petitioner “break his arm down.” Also, that the police officers did not attend to the Petitioner, but instead to the officer who was shot. Three of the Petitioner’s friends realized he was alive and drove him to the hospital. The Petitioner did not have a gun on him. A second individual, Gable McDonald (“Mr. McDonald”), was also allegedly at the bar when the officer was killed. Mr. McDonald told a friend of his that he shot the officer with his own gun. The Petitioner’s attorney questioned Mr. McDonald and he confirmed his confession was voluntary and nobody compelled him to speak to the Petitioner’s attorney. A month after Mr. McDonald confessed, he recanted his confession and said a reverend convinced him to confess that he killed the officer. The reverend promised him he would not go to jail and that he would share in the proceeds of a civil suit brought by the Petitioner. Mr. McDonald testified he was not at the bar when the office was killed, but down the street at another bar. Also, that he took the Petitioner to the hospital. At the Petitioner’s trial, two months after Mr. McDonald’s testimony, he had two grounds of defense. First, that he did not shoot the officer and second, that Mr. McDonald shot the officer. As to the second, much of the evidence was deemed inadmissible and the Petitioner challenged that the rules of evidence not allowing this testimony made his trial fundamentally unfair. The Petitioner filed a pre-trial motion requesting that Mr. McDonald appear at the trial. Also, that if the state did not call Mr. McDonald, he could call the Petitioner as an adverse witness. The trial court granted the motion requiring Mr. McDonald to appear, but reserved ruling on the second motion. The state did not call Mr. McDonald, but the Petitioner called him and laid a predicate for the introduction of his sworn out-of-court confession. It was admitted into evidence and read to the jury. On cross-examination, the state elicited the fact Mr. McDonald recanted his confession. Also, that he did not shoot the officer and only confessed due to what was promised to him by the reverend. At the end of the states cross-examination, the Petitioner reiterated his motion to examine Mr. McDonald as a hostile witness and the trial court found that he “may be hostile, but he is not adverse in the sense of the word, so your request will be overruled.” The State Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s ruling concluding Mr. McDonald’s testimony was not adverse because he did not point his finger at the Petitioner. The Petitioner also sought to introduce into evidence the testimony of three of Mr. McDonald’s friends he confessed to, but the court held these statements were hearsay. “As a consequence of the combination of Mississippi’s ‘party witness’ or ‘voucher’ rule and its hearsay rule, [the Petitioner] was unable either to cross-examine [Mr.] McDonald or to present witnesses in his own behalf who would have discredited [Mr.] McDonald’s repudiation and demonstrated his complicity. [The Petitoner] had, however, chipped away at the fringes of [Mr.] McDonald’s story by introducing admissible testimony from other sources indicating that he had not been seen in the cafe where he said he was when the shooting started, that he had not been having been with [one of his aforementioned three friends], and that he possessed a .22 pistol at the time of the crime. But all that remained from [Mr.] McDonald’s own testimony was a single written confession countered by an arguably acceptable renunciation. [The Petitoner’s] defense was far less persuasive than it might have been had he been given an opportunity to subject [Mr.] McDonald’s statements to cross-examination or had the other confessions been admitted.”
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