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Back to the Future: Court of Appeals of Texas Finds State of Mind Exception Inapplicable in Duress Case, by Editor Colin Miller, Evidence ProfBlogger, EvidenceProf Blog


Similar to its federal counterpartTexas Rule of Evidence 803(3) provides an exception to the rule of hearsay for:

A statement of the declarant’s then existing state of mind, emotion, sensation, or physical condition (such as intent, plan, motive, design, mental feeling, pain, or bodily health), but not including a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed unless it relates to the execution, revocation, identification, or terms of declarant’s will.

As I always tell my students, Rule 803(3) covers statements concerning present feelings of future intentions but not past events. So where did that leave the defendant in Cogdill v. State, 2014 WL 4627579 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2014)?

In Cogdill, Nico Allen–Antoni Cogdill was charged with capital murder. At trial, Cogdill raised a duress defense, claiming that he and Isaac Milne killed the victim because Jeremy “Bounce” Bukowski threatened them with a shotgun. To prove this claim, Cogdill sought to have Bukowski’s cellmate testify that:

Mr. Bukowski told me that the night that—that all three of them, they went out to the—to the guy’s house. He said that—that at first he had told Mr. Cogdill and Mr. Isaac Milne that it was just to go out there to rob the guy of some laptops, some computer software, and some musical instruments and stuff. He said whenever they got there he said—he said the guy that they went to rob used to be an old roommate of his and said that he told them that the guy was a convicted pedophilier (sic), and whenever they got out there he pulled a shotgun from his trunk, he held it on Mr. Cogdill and Mr. Milne and forced them to proceed with the—with the murder.

Cogdill claimed that this statement was admissible under Rule 803(3), but the trial court disagreed. On appeal, Cogdill repeated his argument, but the Court of Appeals rejected his claim, concluding:

First, we disagree with Cogdill’s interpretation of Bukowski’s statement. The statements allegedly made by Bukowski are merely a rendition of the events that took place on the night of the murder, i.e., out-of-court statements of events that occurred, and as such are hearsay and not admissible under Rule 803(3). . . . Second, numerous courts have held that for the exception set forth in Rule 803(3) to apply, the statement must relate to future, not past, conduct.

I agree with the court’s conclusion but wonder whether Cogdill also raised Texas Rule of Evidence 803(24), which provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for :

A statement which was at the time of its making so far contrary to the declarant’s pecuniary or proprietary interest, or so far tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability, or to render invalid a claim by the declarant against another, or to make the declarant an object of hatred, ridicule, or disgrace, that a reasonable person in declarant’s position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true. In criminal cases, a statement tending to expose the declarant to criminal liability is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement.

The opinion doesn’t reference this Rule, but threatening someone with a shotgun to kill someone would certainly qualify as a statement against interest under the Rule, assuming that there were corroborating circumstances. And, unlike its federal counterpart, Texas’ statement against interest rule does not require that the declatant be unavailable.