We just had a jury trial where this issue came up. Let me give you the hypothetical of prior inconsistent statements and tell me if this answers your question? The complainant gives a statement to the police the night he was stabbed that the defendant stabbed him. Four days later, the complainant gives a different statement, but still says that the defendant stabbed him. A month after the second statement, the complainant testifies at a preliminary hearing and tells a third story, the time sworn, but still says the defendant stabbed him. At trial the complainant now states, again sworn, that the defendant did not stab him and he unsure who actually stabbed him.
The District Attorney impeaches the complainant with the prior inconsistent statements arguing that those statements are consistent with each other in that the defendant stabbed him. At the charging conference with the judge, the District Attorney argues and asks for the jury charge on prior inconsistent statements stating that she wants the prior statements to be consider by the jury as substantive evidence not just for impeachment. Should the judge give this instruction? What does it mean? What should the jury do? What was the outcome of the case?
The judge should give the instruction to the jury that they MAY use any of the previously recorded statements as substantive evidence or use the in court statement. I would ask the judge to either read the alternative charge or to add a sentence at the end reminding the jury that they don't have to use the recorded statements. My judge refused all of these requests and just read the standard charge. Also, recall from a previous post that jury instructions in PA are suggested not mandatory, in that the judge can edit the instructions as she sees fit. FYI the cases that we argued over are Lively and Chmeil (sp?).
The instruction means that even though the previous statements were not sworn testimony in front of this jury, the jury may consider the substance of those previous statements for the truth of the matter asserted in those statements, or the jury can choose to not believe them.
The jury should decide for themselves the totality of circumstances involved in the case and consider everything as a whole in deciding the case.
The outcome of the case was not guilty.
Labels: prior inconsistent statements