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Statements of Intent

In Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Hillmon, the Supreme Court rendered a famous and controversial judgement concerning the admissibility of a person’s out-of-court statement. Rule 803(3) of the Federal Rules of Evidence deals with the famous Hillmon case, but it restricts its applicability. In Hillmon, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed evidence of person A’s statement of his intention to travel and, here is the controversial part, with person B. Perhaps, that was too broad an exception to the hearsay rule, which requires a judge to focus on reliable evidence. Consequently, by passing the Rule 803(3) hearsay exception, Congress restricted the use of such a statement to allow only for person A’s statement of intention as to what person A will do. That seems to make the most sense. After all, using person A’s reference to person B as evidence that the two men did actually travel together seems problematic. For example, Person B could have decided to part company with Person A immediately after the statement was made, or perhaps the two men never met to begin with and/or the statement was fabricated.

We are left with an eminently sensitive rule: a statement of a person’s own intention is admissible but not as to another person’s and, in no event, is a statement of memory or belief admissible. A statement of a memory or belief could be fabricated to cover up a crime or to get someone off the hook from civil liability. Certainly, a statement of intention can be deliberately misleading, but cross-examination may take care of that. Besides, a statement of intention is not determinative that the act actually happened; it is only an exception to the hearsay rule from which the trier of fact may infer that the intended act did take place. In other words, that statement of intention will advance the football but on its own will not get you into the endzone.

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