Acquittal Evidence Barred As Inadmissible Hearsay

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Eleventh Circuit agrees that evidence of an acquittal on related state charges was inadmissible as hearsay, in United States v. Dortch, _ F.3d _ (11th Cir. Sept. 11, 2012) (No. 10-14772)

FRE 803(22) permits the evidence of a final criminal felony judgment to be admitted as an exception to the rule excluding hearsay. Under what circumstances can evidence of an acquittal be admitted? The Eleventh Circuit recently considered this issue.

In the case, the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense. At trial, the defendant sought to admit evidence that he had been acquitted on state charges related to one controlled purchase from the defendant. The trial court excluded this evidence as inadmissible hearsay. After the defendant was convicted, on appeal he claimed error in the exclusion of this evidence.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed that the evidence concerning the acquittal was inadmissible.

“Judgments of acquittal are hearsay.” United States v. Irvin, 787 F.2d 1506, 1516 (11th Cir. 1986). “Unlike judgments of conviction, which may be admitted under Rule 803(22) of the Federal Rules of Evidence for some purposes, and used for impeachment under Rule 609, judgments of acquittal are not covered by an exception to the rule against admission of hearsay.” Id. at 1516–17 ( citing Fed. R. Evid. 801 & 802 ). Obviously, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded inadmissible evidence.
Dortch, _ F.3d at _.

While it is rare for acquittal evidence to be admitted, for another circumstances in which acquittal evidence was admitted, see Admitting Acquitted Conduct Under FRE 404(b), But Excluding Evidence About The Fact Of Acquittal For That Conduct.

Federal Rules of Evidence