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What is hearsay? A quick illustrated guide for the unitiated

Hearsay is kinda tricky. It is one of those words batted around the people use but don't necessarily understand.  This includes lawyers.

Black's Law dictionary defines it is as:

Traditionally, testimony that is given by a witness who relates not what he or she knows personally, but what others have said, and that is therefore dependent on the credibility of someone other than the witness. Such testimony is generally inadmissible under the rules of evidence.

Why does this matter. Well, allow me to present the "hearsay rule." I turn again to Black's Law dictionary:

The rule that no assertion offered as testimony can be received unless it is or has been open to test by cross-examination or an opportunity for cross examination, except as provided otherwise by the rules of evidence, by court rules, or by statute.  The chief reasons for the rule are that out-of-court statements amounting to hearsay are not made under oath and are not subject to cross-examination.

In other words, if I can't cross examine the person who actually has first hand knowledge, instead of the person who says they know what the person with first hand knowledge said, it isn't evidence.


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