Law School Case Brief
State v. Young - 160 Wash. 2d 799, 161 P.3d 967 (Wash. 2007)
The Supreme Court of Washington has recognized that the startling event or condition need not be the principal act underlying the case. A later event may recreate stress earlier produced and cause the person to exclaim spontaneously. In such a situation, it is the later event, not the original trauma, that satisfies the first element of the excited utterance exception under Wash. R. Evid. 803(a)(2). The Chapin case clearly focuses the "startling event or occurrence" inquiry on whether some event startled the declarant, rather than on whether there is proof that the specific event giving rise to the action is the event that elicited the declarant's statement.
After a jury trial in Washington state court, defendant Henry Eugene Young was convicted for attempted child molestation. At trial, the trial court admitted into evidence, after a pre-trial hearing, the victim's hearsay statements made to three witnesses. In those statements, the victim recounted an incident in which Young offered the victim money, tried to undo her belt and stuck his hands down her pants. The trial court determined that the statements fell within the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule, Wash. R. Evid. 803(a)(2). Young's conviction was affirmed on appeal. The state supreme court granted Young's subsequent petition for review.
Did the trial court err in admitting the victim's statements as excited utterances?
The state supreme court affirmed the appellate court's judgment. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the victim's hearsay statements to the witnesses as excited utterances. Young did not definitively establish that the victim fabricated her initial statements. The court further found that circumstantial evidence presented at trial sufficiently corroborated the occurrence of a startling event. The accounts of the victim's statements given by the witnesses were extremely similar and nothing in the record indicated that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting them despite small discrepancies.
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