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Davis v. State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Case No. CV96-312322


March 5, 2000

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use of prior testimony, Sam Sheppard's prior statements, Ohio R. Evid. 804(b)(3), Detective Robert Schottke, evidence, admissions, Ohio R. Evid. 804(b)(1), hearsay, privity admissions, motion in limine


In this memorandum opinion the court ruled on motion by both the Sheppard Estate and the State of Ohio’s motions to have testimony of witnesses from the 1954 and 1966 trials admitted into evidence pursuant to 804(B)(1) of the Ohio Rules of Evidence. The Court first identified that the party offering prior testimony as evidence “holds the key,” and once the prior testimony is introduced into evidence, the non-offering party has the right to make contemporaneously use of that testimony pursuant to Rule 106 of the Ohio Rules of Evidence. The Court clarified that the admissibility of transcripts of testimony of now-unavailable witnesses are limited by all other rules of evidence “such as relevance and inner hearsay.”

The court had already granted the Estate the right to introduce selected excerpts of Detective Robert Schottke’s testimony, however the State wants to introduce the entire transcript including statements made by Dr. Samuel Sheppard to Detective Schottke. The court denied the State's request, holding that those portions already excluded were not necessary to fairly consider the portions which Plaintiff desires to introduce. However, the State could attempt to introduce the excluded parts of the transcript during its case in chief, and the court will make a ruling as to admissibility at that time.

The State sought to bring in as admissions any statements made by Dr. Sheppard by virtue of relational privity admissions. The Court held that Ohio has not adopted privity admissions, and thus the Dr. Sheppard's statements made to Detective Schottke and later testified to, by the same, and now appearing in transcripts from the 1954 and 1955 trials are non-admissible if they are hearsay. The court reasoned that its holding was consistent with rules of statutory construction because the drafters of the “Rules of Evidence defined admissions to include statements by a party but not statements of a ‘predecessors in interest’ of a party,” and yet in rule 804(B)(1) the drafters permitted the admission of former testimony which was subject to cross-examination by a party or a ‘predecessor in interest.” Thus the court rejected the State's argument that the Sheppard Estate, as Dr. Sheppard’s predecessors in interest, had adopted Dr. Sheppard’s admissions through privity.

Whether statements are hearsay depends on the purpose for which they are submitted. The court noted that hearsay, under Rule 801 of the Ohio Rules of Evidence, is defined as out of court statements offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The court held that the statements at issue in this case were being offered to demonstrate that Dr. Sheppard’s statements were either inconsistent or dishonest and therefore not hearsay, and admissible.