Green v. Georgia, 442 U.S. 95 (1979)
This case examines the applicability of rules of evidence when possibly contrary to due process. Green and Carzell Moore were indicted for the rape and murder of Teresa Carol Allen. During Moore’s trial, a witness was brought in to testify that Moore told him Green was not present during the murder. Green wished to present the evidence at trial. The state rejected the evidence, citing Georgia Code } 38-301 (1978), which allows for hearsay for declarations against pecuniary interest, but not for declarations against penal interest.
The decision of the Court was delivered per curium. The Court reasoned that the testimony should be allowed. Though it might not fall within the Georgian rules of evidence, the testimony was highly relevant and its exclusion constituted a violation of due process. There was ample reason to trust the testimony— it had been made to a friend, there was corroborating evidence, the statement was against interest, and, most importantly, the state found the evidence trustworthy enough to be used in Moore’s trial. Rules of evidence must not be used to frustrate justice.
This case continues to be an example of when evidentiary errors may be redressed by the due process clause, though courts have limited the effects of this case on evidentiary rules by distinguishing the fact patterns.
MICHELE L. HILL