Williamson v. United States

512 U.S. 594, 114 S. Ct. 2431 (1994)



Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(3) does not allow admission of non-self-inculpatory statements, even if they are made within a broader narrative that is generally self-inculpatory.


A deputy sheriff stopped a car for weaving on the highway. The driver consented to a search of the car, which was found to contain cocaine. The driver was arrested and consequently told an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that he had obtained the cocaine from a Cuban national who instructed him to deliver the cocaine to a dumpster. After a while, the driver retracted his statements and thereafter said that the cocaine was being delivered for his accomplice, whom he was afraid of. Although the driver freely implicated himself, he did not want his story recorded and refused to sign a written version of his statement. The driver's alleged accomplice was prosecuted in a Federal District Court for narcotics offenses. When called to testify at the trial, the driver refused to do so. He was ultimately held in contempt by the court for his refusal. The court then ruled that under Rule 804(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the DEA agent could testify as to what the driver had told him about the alleged accomplice's involvement in the crime, thereby admitting hearsay evidence as evidence against the accomplice. The alleged accomplice was convicted and claimed on appeal that the admission of the agent's testimony violated Rule 804(b)(3). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction without opinion 


Does the admission of the DEA agent’s testimony violate Rule 804(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Evidence?




The Court held that Rule 804(b)(3) does not allow admission of non-self-inculpatory statements, even if they are contained with a broader narrative that is generally self-inculpatory. Furthermore, the Court noted that in the case at hand, it could not be concluded that all of the driver's statements had been properly admitted, as the record did not show that the District Court or the Court of Appeals had inquired whether each of the statements was truly self-inculpatory therefore, the Court ruled that the case should be remanded to the Court of Appeals to conduct this inquiry.

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