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State of Mind Hearsay Exception Did Not Apply to Letter Allegedly Condoning Larcenous Actions

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s larceny-related convictions, finding the trial court did not improperly exclude evidence.

In this case, the defendant was the victim’s resident health care aide. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, the defendant used the victim’s signature stamp to draft more than $300,000 in checks, drawn from the victim’s life savings, payable to herself and her relatives. When the victim was hospitalized, to his shock and dismay, he learned that his savings were wiped out. He had to obtain State financial assistance and could not return home, instead dying in a nursing home ten months later.

The defendant was charged with larceny in the first degree, larceny in the first degree by embezzlement, and larceny in the second degree. At trial, she attempted to introduce a letter drafted by her daughter, allegedly signed by the victim and permitting the transfer of money from him to the defendant. On the signature line was an “X,” and the daughter testified that she did not know who put it on the writing. The defendant admitted that the document was hearsay, but fell under the “state of mind” exception. The State objected to its admission, arguing that it was past looking and lacked authentication, thus making it unreliable. The trial court agreed and sustained the objection. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly excluded the letter from evidence.

Under § 8-3(4) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence one will find the state of mind exception to the hearsay rule. This section provides:

[A] statement of the declarant’s then-existing mental or emotional condition, including a statement indicating a present intention to do a particular act in the immediate future, provided that the statement is a natural expression of the condition and is not a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed [will not be excludable hearsay].

In this case, the Appellate Court agreed that the document did not fall under the state of mind exception. The trial court did not err in excluding it from evidence, finding it not sufficiently reliable to qualify: the document could not be authenticated because the victim was dead, and the placement of the X could not be explained. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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