Rule 804(b). The Exceptions.
(b) The Exceptions. The following are not excluded by the rule against hearsay if the declarant is unavailable as a witness:
(1) Former Testimony. Testimony that:
(A) was given as a witness at a trial, hearing, or lawful deposition, whether given during the current proceeding or a different one; and
(B) is now offered against a party who hador, in a civil case, whose predecessor in interest hadan opportunity and similar motive to develop it by direct, cross-, or redirect examination.
Pa.R.E. 804(b)(1) is identical to F.R.E. 804(b)(1).
In criminal cases the Supreme Court has held that former testimony is admissible against the defendant only if the defendant had a full and fair opportunity to examine the witness. See Commonwealth v. Bazemore, 614 A.2d 684 (Pa. 1992).
Depositions are the most common form of former testimony that is introduced at a modern trial. Their use is provided for not only by Pa.R.E. 804(b)(1), but also by statute and rules of procedure promulgated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Judicial Code provides for the use of depositions in criminal cases. 42 Pa.C.S. § 5919 provides:
Depositions in criminal matters. The testimony of witnesses taken in accordance with section 5325 (relating to when and how a deposition may be taken outside this Commonwealth) may be read in evidence upon the trial of any criminal matter unless it shall appear at the trial that the witness whose deposition has been taken is in attendance, or has been or can be served with a subpoena to testify, or his attendance otherwise procured, in which case the deposition shall not be admissible.
42 Pa.C.S. § 5325 sets forth the procedure for taking depositions, by either prosecution or defendant, outside Pennsylvania.
In civil cases, the introduction of depositions, or parts thereof, at trial is provided for by Pa.R.C.P. No. 4020(a)(3) and (5).
A video deposition of a medical witness, or any expert witness, other than a party to the case, may be introduced in evidence at trial, regardless of the witnesss availability, pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 4017.1(g).
42 Pa.C.S. § 5936 provides that the testimony of a licensed physician taken by deposition in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure is admissible in a civil case. There is no requirement that the physician testify as an expert witness.
(2) Statement Under Belief of Imminent Death. A statement that the declarant, while believing the declarants death to be imminent, made about its cause or circumstances.
Pa.R.E. 804(b)(2) differs from F.R.E. 804(b)(2) in that the Federal Rule is applicable in criminal cases only if the defendant is charged with homicide. The Pennsylvania Rule is applicable in all civil and criminal cases, subject to the defendants right to confrontation in criminal cases.
In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), the Supreme Court interpreted the Confrontation Cause in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to prohibit the introduction of testimonial hearsay from an unavailable witness against a defendant in a criminal case unless the defendant had an opportunity to confront and cross-examine the declarant, regardless of its exception from the hearsay rule. However, in footnote 6, the Supreme Court said that there may be an exception, sui generis, for those dying declarations that are testimonial.
(3) Statement Against Interest. A statement that:
(A) a reasonable person in the declarants position would have made only if the person believed it to be true because, when made, it was so contrary to the declarants proprietary or pecuniary interest or had so great a tendency to invalidate the declarants claim against someone else or to expose the declarant to civil or criminal liability; and
(B) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate its trustworthiness, if it is offered in a criminal case as one that tends to expose the declarant to criminal liability.
This rule is identical to F.R.E. 804(b)(3).
(4) Statement of Personal or Family History. A statement made before the controversy arose about:
(A) the declarants own birth, adoption, legitimacy, ancestry, marriage, divorce, relationship by blood, adoption or marriage, or similar facts of personal or family history, even though the declarant had no way of acquiring personal knowledge about that fact; or
(B) another person concerning any of these facts, as well as death, if the declarant was related to the person by blood, adoption, or marriage or was so intimately associated with the persons family that the declarants information is likely to be accurate.
Pa.R.E. 804(b)(4) differs from F.R.E. 804(b)(4) by requiring that the statement be made before the controversy arose. See In re McClains Estate, 392 A.2d 1371 (Pa. 1978). This requirement is not imposed by the Federal Rule.
(5) Other exceptions (Not Adopted)
Pennsylvania has not adopted F.R.E. 804(b)(5) (now F.R.E. 807).
(6) Statement Offered Against a Party That Wrongfully Caused the Declarants Unavailability. A statement offered against a party that wrongfully causedor acquiesced in wrongfully causingthe declarants unavailability as a witness, and did so intending that result.
This rule is identical to F.R.E. 804(b)(6).
Adopted May 8, 1998, effective October 1, 1998; Comment revised March 10, 2000, effective immediately; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective March 18, 2013; amended March 1, 2017, effective April 1, 2017.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Final Report explaining the March 10, 2000 revision of the Comment to paragraph (b)(4) published with the Courts Order at 30 Pa.B. 1641 (March 25, 2000).
Final Report explaining the January 17, 2013 rescission and replacement published with the Courts Order at 43 Pa.B. 620 (February 2, 2013).
Final Report explaining the March 1, 2017 amendment of paragraph (a)(3) published with the Courts Order at 47 Pa.B. 1627 (March 18, 2017).
The provisions of this Rule 804(b) adopted January 17, 2013, effective in sixty days, 43 Pa.B. 620; amended March 1, 2017, effective April 1, 2017, 47 Pa.B. 1623. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (365916) to (365917).
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