Jennifer Crissman, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group
In the final installment of our twelve-part practical series for attorneys practicing in Guilford and surrounding counties, we will review the case of State v. Deanes. In our hypothetical situation from Part 1, there were multiple hearsay statements made by the children to various family members, social workers, medical practitioners and detectives. While we have covered the prime hearsay exceptions to have these statements admitted, there is always the possibility that the court will not allow the hearsay in under the already enumerated exceptions. If this happens, the best alternative is to use Hearsay Exceptions Rule 803(24) – “Other Exceptions.” The court in Deanes gives us a broad overview of “other exception where there is inherent trustworthiness” under Rule 803(24), and the proper procedure to utilize this hearsay exception. State v. Deanes, 323 N.C. 508, 374 S.E.2d 249 (1988).
In the case of State v. Deanes, the child victim was a five-year-old girl who was raped by a friend of her mother. The child woke her mother the night of the attack and told her about the assault. The next day the mother confronted the alleged assailant, but took no further action when the assailant denied the attack. Simultaneously the Department of Social Services received an anonymous report that the child was raped. As a result of this report, a social worker became involved in the case. The social worker went to the child’s home, met with the child and the child told the worker about the rape. The social worker arranged for the child and mother to meet with a pediatrician the following day for the child to have a medical exam. At the medical exam, the child was nervous, and the social worker was called in to talk to the child and calm her down. Following the medical exam, the social worker interviewed the child at the social worker’s office with anatomically correct dolls and the child demonstrated what had occurred with the dolls. At trial, the social worker testified about statements the child made to her at the initial interview, at the pediatrician’s office, and at the social worker’s office. On appeal, the Defendant contended that the social worker’s testimony regarding the hearsay statements was improperly admitted under Rule 803(24).
The court in Deanes outlines the six steps the trial court must consider to admit the hearsay statement under Rule 803(24). The order of the steps are: 1) Was proper notice given, 2) Is the hearsay specifically not covered elsewhere, 3) Is the statement trustworthy, 4) Is the statement material, 5) Is the statement more probative on the issue that any other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts, and 6) Will the interests of justice be best served by admission. Id. at 255.