Did You Know?
It’s a common question among those unfamiliar with the court system: “Can I just write you a letter instead of going to court?” Almost always, my answer is no.
The letter is hearsay evidence, and hearsay is not generally allowed in the courtroom. We have all probably heard the word “hearsay” used time and time again. It is generally understood as unverified, unofficial information gained from secondhand sources. Others may use it synomyously with rumors and gossip. But when lawyers use the term, we’re not calling hearsay unsubstantiated or rumor. To us, the definition is narrow: Hearsay is an out of court statement taken for the truth of the matter asserted.
One very basic rule in our courtrooms and in America in general, is that all evidence, verbal and documentary, must withstand scrutiny. In other words, all evidence must undergo cross examination, which “is the principal means by which the believability of a witness and the truth of his testimony are tested. Another legal scholar described it: “Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” So when one attorney presents a piece of paper with writing on it into evidence, there will almost always be a hearsay objection— the attorney cannot cross examine that sheet of paper. The witness cannot simply make statements and be immune from cross examination.
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