Once again, a circuit court has reversed a defendant's supervised-release revocation because the district court improperly relied on hearsay to find a violation.
In United States v. Sutton, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court should not have admitted and relied on videos and transcripts of three witnesses' oral, unsworn statements in response to police interrogations---the "least reliable type of hearsay"---to find that the defendant had committed an assault while on supervised release. The government failed to prove either that confrontation of the witnesses was undesirable or impracticable (its efforts to subpoena the witnesses were insufficient), or that the statements were reliable.
Indeed, the statements were collectively unreliable, as they demonstrated "intoxication,
potential culpability in the crime, lapses in memory, repeated falsehoods, and
motive to implicate the defendant." The district court should not have admitted the statements.
Fortunately for Mr. Sutton, his counsel objected to admission of the statements as hearsay, violations of his constitutional rights, and Rule 32.1 violations, thus preserving the issue for appellate review.
We've blogged about Tenth Circuit cases on the admission of hearsay at revocation proceedings before here and here. Take note. And OBJECT.