G.W. Morris II
Prosecuting Attorney for
Philippi, West Virginia
Attorney for Appellee
Daniel R. James
Barr & James
Keyser, West Virginia
Attorney for Appellant
JUSTICE CLECKLEY delivered the Opinion of the Court.
JUSTICE BROTHERTON and JUSTICE RECHT did not participate.
RETIRED JUSTICE MILLER and JUDGE FOX sitting by temporary assignment.
JUSTICE WORKMAN dissents and reserves the right to file a dissenting opinion.
1. "'Generally, out-of-court statements made by someone
other than the declarant while testifying are not admissible
unless: 1) the statement is not being offered for the truth of the
matter asserted, but for some other purpose such as motive, intent,
state-of-mind, identification or reasonableness of the party's
action; 2) the statement is not hearsay under the rules; or 3) the
statement is hearsay but falls within an exception provided for in
the rules.' Syl. Pt. 1, State v. Maynard, 183 W. Va. 1, 393 S.E.2d
221 (1990)." Syllabus Point 2, State v. Dillon, 191 W. Va. 648,
447 S.E.2d 583 (1994).
2. "The mission of the Confrontation Clause found in
the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section
14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution is to advance
a practical concern for the accuracy of the truth-determining
process in criminal trials, and the touchstone is whether there has
been a satisfactory basis for evaluating the truth of the prior
statement. An essential purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to
ensure an opportunity for cross-examination. In exercising this
right, an accused may cross-examine a witness to reveal possible
biases, prejudices, or motives." Syllabus Point 1, State v. Mason,
___ W. Va. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (No. 22581 6/15/95).
3. "For purposes of the Confrontation Clause found in
the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution, no independent
inquiry into reliability is required when the evidence falls within
a firmly rooted hearsay exception." Syllabus Point 6, State v.
Mason, ___ W. Va. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (No. 22581 6/15/95).
4. It is within a trial court's discretion to admit an
out-of-court statement under Rule 803(1), the present sense
impression exception, of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence if:
(1) The statement was made at the time or shortly after an event;
(2) the statement describes the event; and (3) the event giving
rise to the statement was within a declarant's personal knowledge.
5. Although a trial court may consider corroborating
evidence in determining whether a statement meets the prerequisites
of Rule 803(1) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence, a separate
showing of trustworthiness is not required for a statement to
qualify under this hearsay exception.
6. An extrajudicial statement offered for admission
under the state-of-mind exception of Rule 803(3) of the West
Virginia Rules of Evidence must also be tested under the relevancy
requirements of Rule 401 and Rule 402 of the Rules of Evidence. If
the declarant's state of mind is irrelevant to the resolution of
the case, the statement must be excluded.
7. A trial court's failure to remove a biased juror
from a jury panel does not violate a defendant's right to a trial
by an impartial jury as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution and by Section 14 of
Article III of the West Virginia Constitution. In order to succeed
in a claim that his or her constitutional right to an impartial
jury was violated, a defendant must affirmatively show prejudice.
8. The language of W. Va. Code, 62-3-3 (1949), grants a defendant the specific right to reserve his or her peremptory challenges until an unbiased jury panel is assembled. Consequently, if a defendant validly challenges a prospective juror for cause and the trial court fails to remove the juror, reversible error results even if a defendant subsequently uses his peremptory challenge to correct the trial court's error.
The appellant and defendant below, Craig G. Phillips,
appeals his conviction following a jury verdict in the Circuit
Court of Barbour County of second degree murder for shooting his
wife. The defendant assigns several errors on appeal, including
the trial court admission of hearsay and uncharged misconduct, and
its refusal to strike two jurors for cause.See footnote 1 For reasons discussed
below, the conviction is reversed and the case is remanded.
On the morning of April 29, 1991, Mr. Phillips shot his wife, Cynthia Phillips, in their home. There were no witnesses to the shooting. On the day of the shooting, the defendant maintains his gun jammed while he was turkey hunting early in the morning and he returned home. When the defendant arrived home, he brought the gun with him into the living room in order to ascertain the cause of the jamming. He told his wife the gun was malfunctioning and she suggested they return the gun and have it repaired.
While attempting to remove the shotgun shells, the
defendant received a telephone call from his mother. At that time,
Cynthia Phillips was resting on the sofa. The defendant claimed he
became entangled in the telephone cord while attempting to eject
the shotgun shells and talk on the telephone. As he stood up,
cradling the receiver between his neck and shoulder, the shotgun
accidentally discharged and fatally injured his wife. The
defendant maintained he told his mother to call 911, hung up the
phone, called 911 himself, exited the house in a panic, and yelled
to a neighbor to call 911.
In contrast, the State produced evidence that Cynthia
Phillips was not lying on the sofa at the time of the shooting.
The State asserted that Mrs. Phillips was standing next to the sofa
and the defendant moved her body to the sofa when she collapsed
after being shot. Although there was no blood on the defendant
when the emergency squad arrived, the clothes he wore hunting were
The State's theory was that the couple had marital
problems due mainly to the defendant's extramarital affairs. The
State contended that Cynthia Phillips found out about her husband's
most recent affair and was determined to get proof of his
infidelity. The State argued that, when he returned from his
hunting expedition, Cynthia Phillips confronted her husband, told
him she intended to divorce him, and she would seek half of their substantial assets in the divorce proceeding. The defendant then
fatally shot his wife during this heated confrontation.
The original investigation by the local police into the
death of Cynthia Phillips resulted in a finding that the incident
was an accident. The prosecutor and the State police conducted a
separate investigation prompted by inconsistent statements about
the shooting and, subsequently, the defendant was indicted for
murder. The trial concluded with the jury returning a verdict of
second degree murder against the defendant. The defendant appeals.
The defendant appeals his conviction on several grounds. We limit our consideration of the assigned errors to two: (1) whether the trial court committed reversible error by permitting the multiple use of hearsay evidence, and (2) whether the defendant was wrongfully deprived of two of his statutory peremptory challenges.
In his first assignment of error, the defendant contends the trial court erred by permitting the prosecution to elicit prejudicial hearsay testimony from various witnesses. Prosecution witnesses testified that the victim told them the defendant had numerous extramarital affairs; that she knew about his most recent girlfriend; and that she planned to divorce the defendant and take half of the marital assets if she discovered concrete evidence of his infidelity. Several witnesses also testified that the defendant was having a longstanding affair at the time of the shooting.
At the pretrial and in camera hearings, the prosecution
argued that the proffered testimony fit within numerous hearsay
exceptions and should be admitted at trial. The defendant objected
to this evidence based on relevancy and the prejudicial effect of
the hearsay testimony. However, the trial court admitted most of
the contested testimony on the basis of present sense impression
under Rule 803(1) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence and then
existing mental, emotional, or physical condition under Rule 803(3)
of the Rules of Evidence.See footnote 2
Hearsay "is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." W.Va.R.Evid. 801(c). As we have previously stated in Syllabus Point 2 of State v. Dillon, 191 W. Va. 648, 447 S.E.2d 583 (1994):
"'Generally, out-of-court statements made by someone other than the declarant while testifying are not admissible unless: 1) the statement is not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted, but for some other purpose such as motive, intent, state-of-mind, identification or reasonableness of the party's action; 2) the statement is not hearsay under the rules; or 3) the statement is hearsay but falls within an exception provided for in the rules.' Syl. Pt. 1, State v. Maynard, 183 W. Va. 1, 393 S.E.2d 221 (1990)."
"Hearsay is presumptively untrustworthy because the out-
of-court declarant cannot be cross-examined immediately as to any
inaccuracy or ambiguity in his or her statement." Glen
Weissenberger, Hearsay Puzzles: An Essay on Federal Evidence Rule
803(3), 64 Temple L. Rev. 145 (1991). In criminal trials, hearsay
evidence directly conflicts with the constitutional guarantees
embodied in the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the
United States Constitution and Section 14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution. Recently, in Syllabus Point 1 of State
v. Mason, ___ W. Va. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (No. 22581 6/15/95), this
Court explained the "mission" of the Confrontation Clause:
"The mission of the Confrontation Clause found in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution is to advance a practical concern for the accuracy of the truth-determining process in criminal trials, and the touchstone is whether there has been a satisfactory basis for evaluating the truth of the prior statement. An essential purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to ensure an opportunity for cross- examination. In exercising this right, an accused may cross-examine a witness to reveal possible biases, prejudices, or motives."
Despite these concerns, both this Court and the United States
Supreme Court have found the inherent untrustworthiness of such
statements is eliminated if the evidence fits within a firmly
grounded hearsay exception. See Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100
S. Ct. 2531, 65 L.Ed.2d 597 (1980); State v. Wood, 180 Ariz. 53,
881 P.2d 1158 (1994), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, ___ S. Ct. ___,
___ L.Ed.2d ___, 63 U.S.L.W. 3890 (Docket No. 94-8978 6/19/95);
State v. James Edward S., 184 W. Va. 408, 400 S.E.2d 843 (1990).
This Court has also found in Syllabus Point 6 of State v. Mason,
"For purposes of the Confrontation Clause found in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution, no independent inquiry into reliability is required when the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception."
However, we recognize that "exceptions cannot permit the admission
of hearsay that is less trustworthy than the minimum necessary to
satisfy the confrontation requirements." Stanley A. Goldman, Not
So "Firmly Rooted": Exceptions to the Confrontation Clause, 66
N.C. L. Rev. 1, 5 (1987).
Besides trustworthiness, of equal concern is the
relevancy of hearsay evidence. Rule 403 of the West Virginia Rules
of Evidence provides for the exclusion of relevant evidence on
grounds of prejudice, confusion, or waste of time.See footnote 3 There is no
provision excusing hearsay evidence from meeting the basic
requirement of relevancy for admission. In State v. Satterfield,
___ W. Va. ___, ___, 457 S.E.2d 440, 449 (1995), this Court stated
that even if a trial court finds an extrajudicial statement is
admissible under our hearsay rules,
"[t]he trial judge must additionally analyze whether the . . . [statement] is relevant pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 401 and, if so, thereby admissible pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 402. However, if the probative value of the evidence 'is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, then, although relevant, the evidence may be excluded pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 403."
The statements at issue in the present case were admitted
by the trial court as exceptions to the hearsay rule under Rule
803(1) (present sense impression) and Rule 803(3) (then existing
mental, physical, or emotional condition). We will discuss each of
these exceptions in turn.
The present sense impression exceptionSee footnote 4 is an outgrowth of the common law res gestae (a Latin phrase meaning "things done") exception and a cousin to the excited utterance exception embodied in Rule 803(2) of the Rules of Evidence.See footnote 5 See T.P. Hardman, Spontaneous Exclamations v. Res Gestae, 25 W. Va. L.Q. 341 (1918). The res gestae exception was an umbrella exception that permitted trial courts to admit assorted spontaneous extrajudicial statements if there was contemporaneity between the act established and the declarations, "precluding the reflection that gives rise to falsehood." Reynolds v. W.T. Grant Co., 117 W. Va. 615, 620, 186 S.E. 603, 605 (1936); State v. Coram, 116 W. Va. 492, 182 S.E. 83 (1935); Thompson v. Updegraff, 3 W. Va. 629 (1869); Beckwith v. Mollohan, 2 W. Va. 477 (1868).
Many jurisdictions, including this State, have codified
a part of the res gestae exception by adopting verbatim the present
sense impression found in the Federal Rules of Evidence.See footnote 6 However,
most states have failed to discuss the appropriate standards for
this exception. Instead of grappling with the intricacies of the
exception, frequently courts have so interwoven the definition of
present sense impression with that of the excited utterance
exception that the two exceptions are virtually synonymous and
indistinct. See United States v. Narciso, 446 F. Supp. 252, 286
(E.D. Mich. S.D. 1977) ("[t]raditionally, the distinction between
an 'excited utterance' and a 'present sense impression' has not
been as precise as the authors of the Federal Rules of Evidence
have made it); State v. Maestas, 92 N.M. 135, 584 P.2d 182 (1978)
(statements made at hospital to her mother by victim of severe
beating were admissible under Rules 803(1) and 803(2)). However,
as we discuss below, we recognize there will be situations where
both exceptions may not be equally applicable.
Under Rule 803(1), the present sense impression is
defined as "a statement describing or explaining an event or
condition made while the declarant was perceiving the event or condition, or immediately thereafter." As any exception under Rule
803, proof of the unavailability of the declarant is not a
prerequisite for admission. The rationale for this exception is
that "substantial 'contemporaneity' of event and statement negates
the possibility of conscious misrepresentation." 2 Franklin D.
Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-
3(B)(1) at 194 (1994).
If the present sense impression statement is made "'under
stress of excitement from the event or condition that it describes
or explains, then it overlaps'" with the excited utterance
exception. Booth v. State, 306 Md. 313, 323, 508 A.2d 976, 980
(1986). (Citation omitted). Confusion between the present sense
impression and the excited utterance exception arises because the
average person is "more likely to remark upon unusual and exciting
events rather than those of ordinary character," but both
exceptions could apply for statements arising from exciting
events.See footnote 7 2 Franklin D. Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West
Virginia Lawyers § 8-3(B)(1) at 196.
Despite the possibility that Rule 803(1) can be used in
exciting circumstances, clearly the definition of the present sense
impression indicates the contested statement need not be the result
of an exciting event. In fact, the key difference between the
present sense impression exception and the excited utterance
exception is that present sense impression requires contemporaneity
while the central requirement of an excited utterance is that the
declarant still be under the pressure of the exciting event. See 3
Stephen A. Saltzburg, Michael M. Martin, and Daniel J. Capra,
Federal Rules of Evidence Manual 1390 (6th ed. 1994).See footnote 8
We hold that it is within a trial court's discretion to
admit an out-of-court statement under the present sense impression
exception if: (1) The statement was made at the time or shortly
after an event; (2) the statement describes the event; and (3) the
event giving rise to the statement was within a declarant's
personal knowledge. Additionally, it is appropriate for a trial
court to weigh the corroboration of an event (or the absence
thereof) by an independent witness in evaluating the
trustworthiness of the statement.
We will first consider the necessity of the spontaneity
of the statement. As indicated above, contemporaneity of a
statement reduces the possibility of fabrication and memory lapses.
Theoretically, the reliability of the statement increases as the
length of time between the statement made and the event described
decreases. However, we recognize that at times, "'precise
contemporaneity'" is not always possible, thus slight delays are
permissible. Booth v. State, 306 Md. at 320, 508 A.2d at 979.
(Citation omitted). The goal then is to determine whether
"sufficient time elapsed to have permitted reflective thought." 2 John W. Strong, McCormick on Evidence § 271 at 214 (4th ed.
1992). Thus, a functional test for contemporaneity is to determine
"whether the proximity in time is sufficient to reduce the hearsay
dangers of faulty memory and insincerity." 2 Franklin D. Cleckley,
Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-3(B)(1) at 195.
This Court cannot create a bright line time limit beyond which a
statement would be deemed presumptively unreliable because this
functional test is necessarily dependant on the individual facts of
a case. Such a factual analysis is properly vested with a trial
court, and we will not reverse absent an abuse of discretion.See footnote 9
However, there must be some evidence concerning the lapse of time
or there is no foundation for the admission of this evidence. See
State v. Williams, 395 A.2d 1158, 1163 (Me. 1978) ("victim's
statement . . . coming as it did after an undetermined lapse of
time from the triggering event, does not possess the indicia of
trustworthiness to qualify as a present sense impression").
The second element of the present sense impression
exception is that the statement must describe or explain the event
or condition and not just "relate to" the event, as is permissible for excited utterances. Therefore, a statement that is only evoked
by an event and does not describe it is inadmissible under Rule
803(1). This limitation may be the deciding factor in cases where
it is doubtful whether an event is sufficiently exciting to fit
within the excited utterance exception of Rule 803(2). See Jack B.
Weinstein & Margaret A. Berger, Weinstein's Evidence ¶ 803(1)
at 803-95 (1994). Similarly, certain statements like "[n]arratives
of past events or statements on other subjects are meant to be
excluded . . . because they lack the required contemporaneity."
Jack B. Weinstein & Margaret A. Berger, supra, at ¶ 803(1) at
803-95. (Footnote omitted). See also United States v. Phelps, 572
F. Supp. 262 (E.D. Ky. 1983) (declarant's statements involved
event occurring in past instead of present sense impression).
The third element that is implied by the text of Rule
803(1) is there must be proof that the declarant is speaking from
personal knowledge. Personal knowledge does not mean the declarant
of the present sense impression is required to be a participant in
the event described. The difficult question under this element is
what is the "quantity and quality of evidence required to
demonstrate the existence of the requisite personal knowledge[?]"
Booth v. State, 306 Md. at 325, 508 A.2d at 981. At times, if the
statement is sufficiently descriptive, it may itself demonstrate
the declarant's knowledge. However, barring this happenstance, a
trial court is permitted to accept extrinsic evidence to satisfy
this requirement. The personal knowledge requirement, while not de minimus, is not meant to be a very difficult standard and may be
satisfied if it is more likely than not that the evidence proves
the percipiency of the declarant. See W.Va.R.Evid. 104(b) & 602.See footnote 10
The last point we must consider is whether the
declarant's statements must be corroborated by an independent and
equally percipient witness. Jurisdictions disagree about whether
these independent observers are necessary for admissibility. There
are three competing viewpoints on the necessity of corroboration:
the first group rejects a corroboration requirementSee footnote 11; the second
group finds corroboration is a factor guaranteeing
trustworthinessSee footnote 12; and the third group requires corroboration.See footnote 13 The advantage, of course, in requiring strict corroboration is that a
statement's reliability not only will be enhanced, but there will
be a separate witness available to question concerning the events
surrounding the statement. However, the end result of such a
strict requirement is that many trustworthy, uncorroborated
statements would be excluded simply out of formulaic concerns.
We reject both extremes and follow those states that use
corroboration merely as a relevant element bearing on
trustworthiness. Thus, we find that it is within the discretion of
a trial court to consider corroborating evidence "in determining
whether a statement not exactly contemporaneous qualifies for
admission." Weinstein & Berger, Weinstein's Evidence ¶ 803(1)
at 803-93. By adopting this corroboration element, we do not mean
to suggest that a separate showing of trustworthiness is required
for a statement to be admissible. A descriptive statement made by
a percipient declarant contemporaneous with an event is sufficient
to justify admissibility. See 2 Franklin D. Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-3(B)(1) at 194. See also
Stanley A. Goldman, Not so "Firmly Rooted": Exceptions to the
Confrontation Clause, supra (discussing the shortcomings of various
hearsay exceptions and advocating a case- by-case trustworthiness
The second hearsay exception at issue in this case is the
then existing mental, emotional, or physical condition exception
under Rule 803(3) of the Rules of Evidence. Under Rule 803(3), a
statement which is hearsay is admissible if it is "a statement of
the declarant's then existing state of mind, emotion, or physical
condition (such as intent, plan, motive, design, mental feeling,
pain, and bodily health)[.]" This exception encompasses the
following four kinds of extrajudicial statements:
"statements of present bodily condition; statements of present state of mind or emotion, offered to prove a state of mind or emotion of the declarant that is 'in issue' in the case; statements of present state of mind -- usually intent, plan, or design -- offered to prove subsequent conduct of the declarant in accordance with the state of mind; and statements of a testator indicating his state of mind offered on certain issues in a will case." 2 Franklin D. Cleckley, Handbook on West Virginia Evidence § 8-3(B)(3) at 207.
Statements admissible under Rule 803(3) must relate to the state of
mind existing at the time of the communication. As a result of
this requirement, the statements take on special reliability
because of the "spontaneous quality of the declarations[.]" 2 John W. Strong, McCormick on Evidence § 273 at 226 (4th ed. 1992).
Necessity also plays a key factor in the admissibility of
statements under Rule 803(3). Frequently, the mental or physical
condition of a declarant is of great significance in a case.
Spontaneous statements as to condition at the time the statement
was made are often the best and only indications of the declarant's
condition at the time in question.
The first two categories of statements admissible under
this exception are fairly straightforward. The first--statements
of present state of mind to prove the state of mind of the
declarant that is in issue in a case--is admissible to prove such
things as motive, intent, reliance, etc., of the declarant.
However, the key factor for this type of statement is that the
declarant's state of mind is at issue and relevant to the
resolution of the case.See footnote 14 As a partial guarantee of
trustworthiness, the statements introduced must be made under
circumstances indicative of sincerity. 2 Franklin D. Cleckley,
Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-3(B)(3)(c) at
The second category of statements permissible under this
exception--statements of present bodily condition--is similar to
the first form of excepted hearsay in that statements proving the
declarant's present physical condition are also admissible when
relevant. See, e.g., Fidelity Serv. Ins. Co. v. Jones, 280 Ala.
195, 191 So. 2d 20 (1966) (declarant complained of blackouts and
sickness); Shover v. Iowa Lutheran Hosp., 252 Iowa 706, 107 N.W.2d
85 (1961) (witness testified that plaintiff said she was hurt).See footnote 15
However, statements as to past physical or mental condition are not
permissible under either the first or second category.
The third manner of admitting statements under Rule
803(3) is as proof of the declarant's subsequent action in
compliance with the state of mind. State v. Gangwer, 168 W. Va.
190, 198, 283 S.E.2d 839, 844 (1981). See also Mutual Life Ins.
Co. of N.Y. v. Hillmon, 145 U.S. 285, 12 S. Ct. 909, 36 L.Ed. 706
(1892), superseded by rule as stated in U.S. v. Houlihan, 871 F.
Supp. 1495 (D. Mass. 1994) (a seminal case for this form of
statement). Under this form of statement, the declarant's state of
mind does not have to be in issue in the case; the exception
extends to include statements that are "merely relevant evidence on
an external fact in dispute concerning the declarant's conduct at
a subsequent time." 2 Franklin D. Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-3(B)(3)(c) at 211. The special
reliability implicit in the other forms of statements is often less
in this category because "it is significantly less likely that a
declared intention will be carried out than it is that a declared
state of mind is actually held." 2 John W. Strong, McCormick on
Evidence § 275 at 234. For example, in a murder prosecution, a
defendant's statements that he planned on killing the victim is
stronger evidence of the defendant's malice toward the victim than
that the defendant actually committed the murder. See 2 John W.
Strong, McCormick on Evidence § 275 at 234.
The fourth form of statements permits admission of
statements of a testator that indicate his state of mind on certain
issues. Statements of memory or belief, which are excluded under
the other categories,See footnote 16 are admissible to prove the testator's
statements about various issues relating to the "'execution, revocation, identification, or terms'" of a will. 2 Franklin D.
Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers § 8-
3(B)(3)(d) at 214. However, other forms of statements like those
showing the conduct of others are inadmissible.
A statement introduced under the state-of-mind exception
must also be tested under the relevancy requirements of Rule 401See footnote 17
and 402See footnote 18 of the Rules of Evidence before it can be admitted. See
2 Franklin D. Cleckley, Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia
Lawyers § 8-3(B)(3)(a); State v. Gangwer, supra. If the
declarant's state of mind, etc., is irrelevant to the resolution of
the case, then the evidence must be excluded. United States v.
Kelly, 718 F.2d 661 (4th Cir. 1983).
After determining the relevancy of the evidence, a trial
court must evaluate the probative and prejudicial weight of the
evidence under Rule 403. State v. Satterfield, ___ W. Va. at ___,
457 S.E.2d at 449. Rule 403 creates a balancing test allowing the
exclusion of relevant evidence if the "probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice,
confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by
considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless
presentation of cumulative evidence." The evaluation of the
probative weight versus prejudicial weight of evidence is left to
the sound discretion of the trial court and its judgment will not
be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. Gable v. Kroger Co.,
186 W. Va. 62, 410 S.E.2d 701 (1991); State v. Dillon, supra.
Additionally, "[t]he balancing necessary under Rule 403 must
affirmatively appear on the record." State v. McGinnis, ___ W. Va.
___, ___, 455 S.E.2d 516, 525 (1994).
Testing state-of-mind evidence under Rule 403 is
imperative because the failure to do so could result in the
admission of statements that fit within the language of Rule
803(3), but are highly prejudicial. One form of prejudice that
could result is when a statement reflecting the state of mind of a
declarant is used "for the truth of an event other than the
declarant's state of mind." 3 Stephen A. Saltzburg, Michael M.
Martin, and Daniel J. Capra, Federal Rules of Evidence Manual at
1399. Thus, a statement reflecting a victim's fear of a defendant,
which could permissibly show the victim was unlikely to behave in
a certain manner,See footnote 19 might also be misused to show the victim had reason to fear the defendant. If such a case arose, the statement
would have to be challenged under Rule 403 because there is no
provision in Rule 803(3) to exclude potentially prejudicial
statements of this nature.
Having reviewed the standards for the hearsay exceptions implicated in this case, we must now determine whether the trial court properly admitted any of the contested statements under Rules 803(1) or 803(3). We will discuss the testimony of the following four witnesses: Dora Clark, Vonda Abbott, Patty Isner Marsh, and Mary Phillips.See footnote 20
At trial, two of the victim's sisters, Dora Clark and
Vonda Abbott, testified that the victim, Mrs. Abbott, and others
traveled to Florida to visit Mrs. Clark and her family during
February of 1991. It was asserted that on February 9, 1991, the
victim had a telephone conversation with the defendant. After the
call, the victim became very upset and stated she believed the
defendant was having an affair and, when she returned to West
Virginia, she would divorce him and seek half of the marital
assets. The prosecution sought a ruling in limine regarding Mrs. Clark's testimony. During both of the hearings, the prosecution
offered the same justification for the admission of this testimony:
"[PROSECUTION]: Yes, Your Honor, I
believe that testimony about Dora Clark in
Florida will be also relevant for under number
803(1). The testimony and foundation for that
will be there was a telephone call received
from Mr. Phillips while she [the victim] was
at her sister's house in Florida, and upon
receiving the telephone call she was very
upset, and in the presence of Dora Clark, her
sister, Vonda Abbott, her sister, and Alvin
Abbott, her brother-in-law, she made those
statements. They included . . . the plan that
she was going to come home and tell Craig [the
defendant] she was going to get a
divorce. . . .
"THE COURT: Do you know how long
after she received this phone call?
"[PROSECUTION]: Immediately. When
she [the victim] came out -- when I say
immediately within five minutes, Your Honor.
My understanding is the foundation for this
will be that she came out of the bedroom where
she received the call into -- maybe passing
into the living room into the kitchen where
the ladies were."
Defense counsel objected to Mrs. Clark's testimony based mainly
upon relevancy. The trial court admitted the evidence under Rule
803(1), present sense impression, and/or Rule 803(3), state-of-
"THE COURT: The Court is of the impression that the hearsay testimony expected to be elicited by the defendant is an exception to the hearsay rule under 803 (1) assuming that the statement made by the declarant was made shortly after a phone call between her and her husband, and will be admitted as a hearsay exception. The Court further believes that the statement is relevant to show overall motive concerning that crime of which the defendant stands accused. Show the objection of the defendant to the ruling of the Court."
At trial, the prosecution asked both witnesses a few
preliminary questions about the victim answering a telephone call
from the defendant and the victim's emotional state following the
call. Both witnesses confirmed the fact the victim was upset and
crying after talking on the phone to the defendant. The
prosecution specifically asked both the witnesses whether the
victim said anything about a divorce and a possible property
settlement. Mrs. Clark responded "she [the victim] said she was at
her wits end, and she wanted to get a divorce" and the victim
wanted half of the marital assets to care for her son who suffered
from diabetes and because she deserved half since she had worked
hard for the property.
Mrs. Abbott's response to the prosecution's questions was
nearly identical. In her testimony, Mrs. Abbott stated that the
victim said "she was going to get a divorce * * * [and that]. . .
[s]he only wanted half of what she worked so hard to get." Unlike
the prosecution's proffer during the hearings, neither of the
witnesses admitted at trial that the victim planned to confront the
The Phillips' housekeeper, Patty Isner Marsh, testified
the couple had marital problems and that the defendant had
extramarital affairs. Ms. Marsh testified the victim told her the
defendant "hadn't touched her physically since she came back from Hawaii . . . [and that] [i]n fact she said he hadn't made love to
her[.]" Ms. Marsh also indicated this fact concerned the victim.
The prosecution then asked Ms. Marsh whether she was aware of a
relationship between the defendant and Linda Hedrick. The witness
responded she knew the defendant was having an affair with someone
prior to the victim's death, but did not know who it was until
after the victim died. Ms. Marsh also answered "yes" when the
prosecution asked her whether she knew if the defendant had prior
affairs. Upon request, Ms. Marsh proceeded to discuss other
affairs. However, the defense quickly objected. The trial court
ruled Ms. Marsh could testify only about affairs of which she had
personal knowledge and instructed the jury to disregard any
statements regarding affairs with people other than the one in
which Ms. Marsh had personal knowledge. She also implied that when
the defendant would finish an affair, he would give his wife a
ring, which the wife then nicknamed after each paramour.
Mary Phillips testified that three days before the
shooting, the victim came into a store where Ms. Phillips was
working and appeared to be upset. Ms. Phillips testified she asked
the victim why she was upset and the victim told her she had found
a receipt for an expensive ring. The prosecution then asked the
witness whether the victim said anything about the ring and what
the victim actually said. In response, Ms. Phillips testified the
victim stated "that there had been one [ring] purchased at a Elkins
jewelry store . . . and that she [the victim] was going to go to try to find out who it was purchased for. And if she did find out,
and could get evidence, I guess, then she was going to file for a
divorce." These statements were admitted under Rule 803(3), the
The prosecution contends the trial court properly
admitted the statements, allowing it to prove the victim was
contemplating divorce because of the defendant's longstanding
affair with another woman. The resultant disharmony coupled with
the valuable assets of the couple offered a motive for the
defendant to murder his wife. The prosecution argues that if the
admission of this evidence was improper, it did not have a
prejudicial effect upon the jury sufficient to warrant reversal.
We disagree and find the trial court erred in admitting the aforementioned statements as exceptions under Rule 803(1) or Rule 803(3).
First, the inapplicability of Rule 803(1) is obvious.
None of the disputed testimony describes or explains any particular
event or condition. Second, without focusing on a particular event
or condition, the statements are unable to satisfy the requirement
of contemporaneity. Although a startling event is not required
under Rule 803(1), it is necessary that the statement describing a
particular event or condition be made at the time the event or
condition is occurring or very shortly thereafter. Far from
describing or explaining an event or condition, the victim's comments to the witnesses were only narrative statements of what
the victim knew from past information and what future action she
intended to take based on her husband's past infidelities. For
example, the victim's comments to her sisters after the telephone
conversation were not an attempt to describe or explain the
conversation, but were rather a revelation of her marital
relationship with the defendant. Similarly, her statements to Ms.
Marsh and Ms. Phillips were merely descriptions of past experiences
and future plans. Rule 803(1) guarantees of trustworthiness are
entirely absent in these conversations.
As stated by the Pennsylvania court in Commonwealth v.
Farquharson, 467 Pa. 50, 68, 354 A.2d 545, 554 (1976), citing
Commonwealth v. Coleman, 458 Pa. 112, 117, 326 A.2d 387, 389
"Under this exception the necessity for the presence of a startling occurrence or accident to serve as a source of reliability is not required. The truthfulness of the utterance is dependent upon its spontaneity. It must be certain from the circumstances that the utterance is a reflex product of immediate sensual impressions, unaided by retrospective mental processes. Restated, the utterance must be 'instinctive, rather than deliberate.'"
Here, the evidence failed to establish the declaration of the
victim was "'instinctive, rather than deliberative--in short, the
reflex product of the immediate sensual impression, unaided by
retrospective mental action.'" Municipality of Bethel Park v.
W.C.A.B., 161 Pa. Commw. 274, 280, 636 A.2d 1254, 1257, appeal granted, 538 Pa. 617, 645 A.2d 1320 (1994). (Citations omitted).
It was, rather, an expression based on the victim's past knowledge
of the defendant. As suggested earlier, a statement that is only
evoked by an event but does not describe it is inadmissible under
The argument for admissibility under Rule 803(3) is more
persuasive considering the victim's statements could have indicated
her state of mind; but, even here, there are several problems
preventing the admissibility of the statements under this
exception. Although the declarant's state of mind does not have to
be directly in issue for the statement to be admissible under Rule
803(3), where a statement is introduced to show the declarant
subsequently acted in compliance with this state of mind, the state
of mind must be relevant.See footnote 21 In this case, the declarant's state of mind was not directly in issue and was only remotely related to the
issues in this case. The issue before the jury was whether the
shooting was accidental. When standing alone, it was of no
consequence to the jury's task whether the victim believed her
husband had been unfaithful and she intended to pursue divorce
In some criminal cases, the state of mind of the victim
may be relevant to show such things as the victim's probable
behavior in cases where the defendant is claiming self-defense or
that the victim voluntarily behaved in a certain manner.See footnote 22 In this
case, the defendant is contending his wife's death resulted from an
accident. None of the statements admitted would have been useful
in refuting this defense.See footnote 23 The contention that the testimony was relevant to prove motive is too tenuous. Even if we analyze the
evidence under the more liberal Rule 104(b),See footnote 24 we do not believe the
evidence introduced by the prosecution is sufficient to support a
finding that the defendant's motive to kill his wife was because of
her efforts to get a divorce. In fact, the closest case we can
find to the facts in this case is People v. Lang, 106 Ill. App. 3d
808, 815, 62 Ill. Dec. 510, 516, 436 N.E.2d 260, 263 (1982).
There, the court held the victim's state of mind was relevant to
rebut the defendant's claim that the marriage was a happy one and
that the shooting of the wife was accidental. The defendant
attempted to establish that on the night of the shooting he and the
victim attended a family gathering. The prosecution was permitted
to introduce evidence that the wife made several statements to her
friends in regard to the rotten relationship she had with her
husband. The court found in light of this evidence the victim's
state of mind was relevant:
"The statements were relevant to the case because of the defendant's testimony on behalf of the defense. . . . [T]he defendant also testified that he had a good marriage and believed that the decedent was happy in the marriage.
* * *
". . . The rebuttal testimony as to
the decedent's state of mind was relevant to
rebut the defense testimony concerning the
marital accord between the defendant and the
decedent, to respond to the defendant's
version of how his wife was shot and to
suggest a possible motive for the defendant's
crime." 106 Ill. App. 3d at 815, 62 Ill. Dec.
at 516, 436 N.E.2d at 266. (Emphasis added).
Of course, the key to that case was that the testimony concerning
the wife's state of mind came in rebuttal to the defendant's claim
of a happy marriage. In the case sub judice, the prosecution
initiated the evidence in its case-in-chief. No door had been
opened by the defense.
There are other difficulties with the trial court's
ruling that must be addressed. First, there are two components to
the victim's statement: (a) She intended to get a divorce and to
seek half of the marital assets; and (b) she was going to do take
this action because the defendant had or was engaging in
extramarital affairs. Even if the declarations were relevant to
show the state of mind of the wife, the statements as suggested
above go much further and reveal details about extramarital
affairs. The latter statement is not reflective of future
intentions, but is a fact remembered and is specifically excluded
from the exception. We recently adopted the hearsay analysis of
the United States Supreme Court in Williamson v. United States, ___
U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 2431, 129 L.Ed.2d 476 (1994), when dealing with
narrative extrajudicial statements. In State v. Mason, ___ W. Va.
at ___, ___ S.E.2d at ___ (Slip op. at 13-14), we stated:
"Using the broad definition of 'statement' articulated in Rule 801(a)(1)--'an oral or written assertion'--as a point of departure, Williamson went on to explain the significance of the term for purposes of Rule 804(b)(3). Williamson, U.S. at , 114 S. Ct. at 2434, 129 L.Ed.2d at 482. Specifically, the Supreme Court concluded that the word 'statement' means '"a single declaration or remark,"' rather than '"a report or narrative,"' reasoning that this 'narrower reading' is consistent with the principles underlying the rule. U.S. at , 114 S. Ct. at 2434-35, 129 L.Ed.2d at 482, quoting Webster's Third New International Dictionary 2229, defn. 2(a) and (b) (1961). Thus, when ruling upon the admission of a narrative under this rule, a trial court must break down the narrative and determine the separate admissibility of each '"single declaration or remark."' This exercise is a 'fact-intensive inquiry' that requires 'careful examination of all the circumstances surrounding the criminal activity involved[.]' U.S. at , 114 S. Ct. at 2437, 129 L.Ed.2d at 486."
Had the trial court dissected each part of the hearsay statements
of each witness, it is clear that all the conversations of the
victim could not qualify under either of the exceptions. Second,
the trial court, when confronted with a relevancy objection, failed
to comply with any of the standards we established in State v.
McGinnis, supra, and its progeny.See footnote 25 In addition to not being within the Rule 803(3) exception, these statements when admitted without
judicial control and supervision became very detrimental to the
defendant because of their potential for misuse by the jury.
Because we find the admission of these statements error,
we must now determine whether their admission constituted
reversible error. When dealing with the wrongful admission of
evidence, we have stated that the appropriate test for harmlessness
is whether, after stripping the erroneous evidence from the whole,
we can say with fair assurance that the remaining evidence
independently was sufficient to support the verdict and the jury
was not substantially swayed by the error. State v. Atkins, 163
W. Va. 502, 261 S.E.2d 55 (1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 904, 100
S. Ct. 1081, 63 L.Ed.2d 320 (1980).
After excluding all the impermissible evidence, we cannot
say the jury would have arrived at the same result considering the
pervasive nature of the evidence admitted. There is no direct
evidence as to what happened that fateful morning, and the State
relied on circumstantial evidence of the victim's state of mind and
her intention to seek a divorce to set the scene for the incident.
Despite the prosecution's attempts to downplay the importance of
the contested testimony, it is clear the statements constituted a
significant portion of the State's theory of the defendant's
motive. We, of course, do not know what the jury found persuasive.
However, it is not improbable to believe the jury found the evidence of marital infidelity extremely compelling. For these
reasons, we cannot find the wrongful admission of this evidence to
be harmless error.
The defendant asserts two jurors should have been struck for cause. During individual voir dire, both of these potential jurors admitted that evidence of adultery might have a negative impact on their determination of the defendant's guilt. Under this theory, the defendant makes two arguments: (1) He was denied an impartial jury panel; and (2) because the defendant was required to use two of his peremptory challenges on the two allegedly disqualified jurors, he was denied his statutory right to six peremptory challenges. The prosecution argues the trial court did not err in refusing to strike the two jurors for cause because neither said that their dislike of adultery alone would dictate their verdict.
The defendant made a pretrial motion for individual voir
dire of the jury, and the trial court granted this motion. The
individual voir dire of the prospective jurors was conducted in the
judge's chambers after the preliminary disqualification of five
jurors and the dismissal of fourteen more jurors for bias or
personal relationships. During the voir dire questioning, two of
the jurors, Nancy Mayle and Pat Hollen, indicated their general dislike of adultery. After thorough questioning by the trial court
and counsel, the defendant objected to both the jurors for cause,
arguing the jurors would not be able to separate their bias against
adultery from the determination of the defendant's guilt.
The first part of the defendant's argument is that the
presence of the two biased jurors on the jury panel denied his
right to an impartial jury under the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution and Section 14 of
Article III of the West Virginia Constitution. We find the
defendant's reliance on an accused's constitutional right to an
impartial jury is misplaced.
In Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 81, 108 S. Ct. 2273, 101
L.Ed.2d 80 (1988), the defendant asserted he was denied his
constitutional right to an impartial jury because he was forced to
use one of his peremptory challenges when the trial court failed to
remove a juror for cause. The Supreme Court agreed that the juror
should have been dismissed for cause. However, affirming the
defendant's conviction, the Supreme Court specifically held that
the loss of a peremptory challenge because of a trial court's
improper failure to grant a challenge for cause does not amount to
a violation of a constitutional right without a showing of
prejudice. The Supreme Court reasoned that even though the
defendant was forced to use a peremptory challenge to cure the
trial court's error, the loss of a peremptory challenge did not impair his right to an impartial jury. The Supreme Court also
repeated its long held opinion that "peremptory challenges are not
of constitutional dimension." 487 U.S. at 88, 108 S. Ct at 2278,
101 L.Ed.2d at 90. Thus, "[s]o long as the jury that sits is
impartial, the fact that the defendant had to use a peremptory
challenge to achieve that result does not mean the Sixth Amendment
was violated." 487 U.S. at 88, 108 S. Ct at 2278, 101 L.Ed.2d at
90. We concur with this part of the Ross opinion.See footnote 26
The mere presence of a biased prospective juror on a jury
panel, although undesirable, does not threaten a defendant's
constitutional right to an impartial jury if the biased panel
member does not actually serve on the jury that convicts the
defendant. Although a defendant may be forced to use a peremptory
challenge to remove a juror that should have been removed for cause
does not alone invalidate the fact "the juror was 'thereby removed
from the jury as effectively as if the trial court had excused him
for cause.'" U.S. v. Cruz, 993 F.2d 164, 168 (8th Cir. 1993),
quoting Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. at 86, 108 S. Ct. at 2277, 101
L.Ed.2d at 88. Peremptory challenges are merely a means of
achieving an impartial jury. They are "neither mandated by the
[United States or the West Virginia] Constitution nor of
constitutional dimension" and we will not permit the loss of a
peremptory challenge to establish the breach of a constitutional
guarantee in this context. U.S. v. Towne, 870 F.2d 880, 885, cert.
denied, 490 U.S. 1101, 109 S. Ct. 2456, 104 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1989).
See also Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. at 89, 108 S. Ct. at 2278-79,
101 L.Ed.2d at 90-91; Gaskins v. McKellar, 916 F.2d 941, 949 (4th
Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 961, 111 S. Ct. 2277, 114
L.Ed.2d 728 (1991).
Thus, we now hold that a trial court's failure to remove
a biased juror from a jury panel does not violate a defendant's
right to a trial by an impartial jury as guaranteed by the Sixth
and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and by Section 14 of Article III of the West Virginia Constitution. In
order to succeed in a claim that his or her constitutional right to
an impartial jury was violated, a defendant must affirmatively show
In the present case, the defendant removed the
prospective jurors with peremptory challenges. He does not assert
that the jury which finally tried the case was biased or
prejudiced. There is no evidence the defendant challenged any of
the remaining jurors for cause. Consequently, he has not shown any
prejudice from the trial court's denial of his challenges for cause
as required by Ross.
Our analysis of this assignment of error cannot end here.
The second part of the defendant's argument raises two questions:
(1) What effect does a trial court's erroneous ruling on a
challenge for cause have on a defendant's statutory right to a
bias-free panel; and (2) does the dilution of peremptory challenges
from such error entitle a defendant to a reversal?
Although peremptory challenges may be only a means to an end in a constitutional setting, they are still "'"one of the most important of the rights secured to the accused."'" Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. at 89, 108 S. Ct. at 2278, 101 L.Ed.2d at 90. (Citations omitted). However, "it is for the State to determine the number of peremptory challenges allowed and to define their purpose and the manner of their exercise." 487 U.S. at 89, 108 S. Ct. at 2279, 101 L.Ed.2d at 90. Therefore, it is necessary to resort to our statutory and case law to determine whether a defendant's "'right' to peremptory challenges is 'denied or impaired[.]'" Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. at 89, 108 S. Ct. at 2279, 101 L.Ed.2d at 91.
Unlike Ross, our State law does not make a specific qualification that peremptory challenges be used to cure a trial court's errors.See footnote 27 In fact, pursuant to W. Va. Code, 62-3-3 (1949), a defendant is entitled to a panel of twenty jurors, free from exception, before he or she is called upon to exercise peremptory challenges.See footnote 28 We have found "if proper objection is raised at the time of impaneling the jury, it is reversible error for the court to fail to discharge a juror who is obviously objectionable." State v. West, 157 W. Va. 209, 219, 200 S.E.2d 859, 866 (1973). Furthermore, in State v. Wilcox, 169 W. Va. 142, 144, 286 S.E.2d 257, 259 (1982) (per curiam opinion), citing W. Va. Code, 62-3-3, and various cases, we specifically noted that denying a valid challenge for cause of a jury panel member is reversible error "even if the disqualified juror is later struck by a peremptory challenge." We reaffirm the rule in Wilcox and find that the language of W. Va. Code, 62-3-3, grants a defendant the specific right to reserve his or her peremptory challenges until an unbiased jury panel is assembled. Consequently, if a defendant validly challenges a prospective juror for cause and the trial court fails to remove the juror, reversible error results even if a defendant subsequently uses his peremptory challenge to correct the trial court's error.
Apart from the defendant's failure to show prejudice in
the constitutional sense, the trial court determined that Ms. Mayle
and Mr. Hollen could serve impartially. Thus, the only remaining question is whether the jurors should have been removed for cause
because of bias. Because we have decided to reverse on other
grounds, we need not make a definitive decision of this issue. We
do believe, however, that we should offer some guidance.
The true test of whether a juror is qualified to serve on
the panel is whether he or she can render a verdict solely on the
evidence without bias or prejudice under the instructions of the
court. State v. White, 171 W. Va. 698, 301 S.E.2d 615 (1983);
State v. Neider, 170 W. Va. 662, 295 S.E.2d 902 (1982); State v.
Beck, 167 W. Va. 830, 286 S.E.2d 234 (1981). When a defendant
seeks the disqualification of a juror, the defendant bears the
burden of "rebut[ting] the presumption of a prospective juror's
impartiality[.]" Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 723, 81 S. Ct. 1639,
1642-43, 6 L.Ed.2d 751, 756 (1961).
A trial court's ruling on a challenge for cause is
reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See State v. Derr,
192 W. Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994). Because "'determination[s]
of impartiality, in which demeanor plays such an important part,
. . . [are] within the province of . . . [a] trial judge,'" an
appellate court should not disturb a trial court's decision to deny
challenges for cause without a showing of abuse of discretion or
manifest error. Ristaino v. Ross, 424 U.S. 589, 595, 96 S. Ct.
1017, 1020, 47 L.Ed.2d 258, 263 (1976). (Citation omitted).
Utilizing the above standard of review, the prosecution
contends the trial court did not clearly abuse its discretion in
refusing to strike these jurors for cause. It asserts it would be
proper for the jurors to consider evidence of the defendant's
infidelity under Rule 402 of the Rules of Evidence when deciding
the defendant's guilt because the infidelity evidence is relevant
to motive and credibility but not determinative of the defendant's
Although it is permissible for a jury to review evidence
of infidelity as long as it satisfies the requirements of the Rules
of Evidence, if it is apparent during voir dire that a prospective
juror would misuse or place improper weight on potentially
prejudicial evidence, then that juror should be excluded for bias.
In this case, both jurors gave some indication that if evidence of
infidelity was presented at trial, then that fact alone might
prejudice them against the defendant.
The responses of Ms. Mayle, the first juror challenged
for cause by the defendant, were especially equivocal. During voir
dire, Ms. Mayle admitted she would be immediately prejudiced
against the defendant, irrespective of the facts, if evidence of
infidelity was admitted at trial. When questioned whether she
"could separate the fact you don't like what he was doing from the
fact your deciding whether or not he murdered his wife[,]" Ms.
Mayle could only reply "I think probably would. I would have to think about it. I don't think I would separate it, you know. If
it was on going. If it happened three or four years and then this
happened--might not be." After a thorough attempt by the trial
court to rehabilitate this juror, there was still evidence Ms.
Mayle would be unable to separate her own bias from her evaluation
of the defendant's guilt. This fact is especially apparent when
Ms. Mayle stated towards the end of her examination: "Not that I
disapprove of adultery. I am saying it probably would influence me
if I heard somebody had an affair and somebody got killed. You
just assume, you know." (Emphasis added). Finally, when asked
whether she would listen to the remainder of the evidence before
deciding upon the defendant's guilt, Ms. Mayle stated she would
The responses by this juror clearly indicated she had
serious misgivings about her ability to separate her own
assumptions regarding infidelity from the evidence of the case. If
the juror was uncertain of her impartiality, we are also. Of
course, it is proper to continue to question a juror to ascertain
whether he or she understands his or her thoughts about a certain
issue. However, when the juror can only say he or she would "try
to" render an impartial verdict, the trial judge should seriously
question the juror's actual ability to do so.
Mr. Hollen's bias was not as evident. However, we are
still concerned that this juror admitted immediately that evidence of extramarital affairs would influence him. The juror did suggest
that he could separate the infidelity from other evidence in the
case. Even here we question if this actually would have been
possible considering that Mr. Hollen consistently maintained such
evidence could "tilt the scales" or "have some influence."
In cases of "grave" doubt, our recent cases would require
the disqualification of the prospective juror. See Davis v. Wang,
184 W. Va. 222, 400 S.E.2d 230 (1990) (any doubt regarding a
juror's impartiality must be resolved in favor of the party
challenging the prospective juror). In this case, the jurors
admitted it would be difficult to be "fair" and only reluctantly
suggested they would listen to all the evidence. These
circumstances certainly would have justified the trial court's
sustaining the challenges for cause. State v. Bennett, 181 W. Va.
269, 382 S.E.2d 322 (1989); State v. Matney, 176 W. Va. 667, 346
S.E.2d 818 (1986). Barring equal protection considerations, see
generally Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S. Ct. 1712, 90
L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), it cannot be overemphasized that no error is
committed even when a qualified juror is struck as along as the
remaining panel members are qualified. Rather, our cases
demonstrate that a trial court risks error only when it refuses to
strike jurors whose impartiality is questionable.
Nevertheless, the defendant bears the burden of showing that the prospective jurors were actually biased or otherwise disqualified and that the trial court abused its discretion or committed manifest error when it failed to excuse them for cause. Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. at 723, 81 S. Ct. at 1643, 6 L.Ed.2d at 756. Because of the nature of the questions asked, we have some reservation as to whether the defendant met his burden.See footnote 29 Giving deference to the trial court's determination, because it was able to observe the prospective jurors' demeanor and assess their credibility, it would be most difficult for us to state conclusively on this record that the trial court abused its discretion.
For the forgoing reasons, we find the defendant's conviction should be reversed and a new trial granted. Therefore, we remand this case to the Circuit Court of Barbour County for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
Footnote: 1 The defendant also asserts that his conviction should be reversed due to: (1) prosecutorial misconduct; (2) erroneous jury instructions; (3) insufficiency of the evidence; (4) cumulative error; and (5) a purported discovery violation. We find there is either no support in the record for these errors or they are without merit.
Footnote: 2 Rule 803 reads, in pertinent part:
" Hearsay Exceptions: Availability of
Declarant Immaterial. The following are not
excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the
declarant is available as a witness:
"(1) Present Sense Impression.--A
statement describing or explaining an event
or condition made while the declarant was
perceiving the event or condition, or
"(3) Then Existing Mental,
Emotional, or Physical Condition.--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, and 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."
Footnote: 3 Rule 403 of the Rules of Evidence provides:
" Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time. Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence."
Footnote: 4 See note 2, supra, for the text of Rule 803(1). Although we have mentioned present sense impression in a few cases, we have never announced the appropriate standards applicable to trial courts.
Footnote: 5 Rule 803(2) reads, in part: "A statement relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition."
Footnote: 6 See Jack B. Weinstein and Margaret A. Berger, Weinstein's Evidence ¶ 803(1) at 803-95 and 803-97 (1994) (listing twenty-four states that have the identical exception). To be clear, however, neither the West Virginia Rules of Evidence nor the Federal Rules of Evidence expressly codify the old catch-all, res gestae. See Miller v. Keating, 754 F.2d 507 (3rd Cir. 1985). If a statement previously referred to as res gestae is to be admissible, the declaration must qualify under one of the genuine exceptions or exemptions to the hearsay rule.
Footnote: 7 See Booth v. State, 306 Md. at 323, 508 A.2d at 981, quoting D. Binder, Hearsay Handbook 89 (2nd ed. 1983, 1985 Cum. Supp.) (example of when both exceptions may be applicable is
"if a sportscaster is excited by the sporting event that he is watching, his play-by-play description qualifies both as a present sense impression and an excited utterance. If he is bored by it, his description qualifies only as a present sense impression").
Footnote: 8 Some view the absence of a startling event as lessening the trustworthiness of a statement that fits within the present sense impression exception. However, some commentators approve the present sense impression exception despite its shortcomings. In Booth, 306 Md. at 321-22, 508 A.2d at 980, quoting McCormick on Evidence § 298 at 860 (3rd ed. E. Cleary 1984), the Maryland Court of Appeals approved the exception:
"'Although [present sense impression]
statements lack whatever assurance of
reliability there is in the effect of an
exciting event, other factors offer
safeguards. First, since the report concerns
observations being made at the time of the
statement it is safe from any error caused by
a defect of the declarant's memory. Second,
a requirement that the statement be made
contemporaneously with the observation means
that there will be little or no time for
calculated misstatement. Third, the
statement will usually have been made to a
third person (the witness who subsequently
testifies to it) who, being present at the
time and scene of the observation, will
probably have an opportunity to observe the
situation himself and thus provide a check on
the accuracy of the declarant's statement,
i.e. furnish corroboration. Moreover, since
the declarant himself will often be available
for cross-examination his credibility will be
subject to substantial verification before the trier of fact.'" (Footnotes omitted).
Other commentators, however, applaud the present sense impression exception because it does not rely on an exciting event. According to these theorists, the startling event itself may distort perception and result in an unreliable statement. See Robert M. Hutchins and Donald Slesinger, Some Observations on the Law of Evidence, 28 Colum. L. Rev. 432, 439 (1928).
Footnote: 9 For cases rejecting the use of Rule 803(1) for lack of contemporaneity, see Hilyer v. Howat Concrete Co., 578 F.2d 422 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (statements made between fifteen and forty-five minutes after the event did not qualify as present sense impression); In Interest of C.B., 574 So. 2d 1369 (Miss. 1990) (Rule 803(1) did not apply because statements were not
made while event was occurring or shortly thereafter). But cf. United States v. Blakey, 607 F.2d 779 (7th Cir. 1979), overruled, in part, on other grounds, U.S. v. Harty, 930 F.2d 1257 (7th Cir. 1991) (substantial contemporaneity is still satisfied even though time lapse may have been up to twenty-three minutes).
Footnote: 10 Rule 104(b) of the Rules of Evidence provides: "Relevancy Conditioned on Fact.--When the relevancy of evidence depends upon the fulfillment of a condition of fact, the court shall admit it upon, or subject to, the introduction of evidence sufficient to support a finding of the fulfillment of the condition."
Rule 602 of the Rules of Evidence provides:
" Lack of Personal Knowledge. A witness may not testify to a matter unless evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may, but need not, consist of the witness' own testimony. This rule is subject to the provisions of Rule 703 relating to opinion testimony by expert witnesses."
Footnote: 11 See United States v. Medico, 557 F.2d 309 (2nd Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 986, 98 S. Ct. 614, 54 L.Ed.2d 480 (1977); United States v. Obayagbona, 627 F. Supp. 329 (E.D.N.Y. 1985); State v. Flesher, 286 N.W.2d 215 (Iowa 1979); Commonwealth v. Coleman, 458 Pa. 112, 326 A.2d 387 (1974).
Footnote: 12 See United States v. Blakey, supra; Robinson v. Shapiro,
484 F. Supp. 91 (S.D.N.Y 1980), judgment affirmed & modified on other grounds by 646 F.2d 734 (1981); United States v. Narciso, supra; MCA, Inc. v. Wilson, 425 F. Supp. 443 (S.D.N.Y. 1976), judgment affirmed & modified on other grounds by 677 F.2d 180 (1981).
Footnote: 13 See In Re Japanese Electronic Products, 723 F.2d 238 (3rd Cir. 1983), rev'd on other grounds sub nom., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), abrogated on other grounds by Pfeiffer v. School Bd. for Marion Center Area, 917 F.2d 779 (3rd Cir. 1990); People v. Watson, 100 A.D.2d 452, 474 N.Y.S.2d 978 (1984).
Footnote: 14 Cf. 2 John W. Strong, McCormick on Evidence § 273 at 228 (text and n.3) (4th ed. 1992) (indicating that courts at times have "tended to lump together statements asserting the declarant's state of mind, hence arguably hearsay, with those tending to prove the state of mind circumstantially, arguably nonhearsay").
Footnote: 15 Furthermore, statements of physical condition do not have to be made to physicians for them to be admissible. See Shover v. Iowa Lutheran Hosp., supra (statements to roommate of hospital patient); Fagan v. Newark, 78 N.J. Super. 294, 188 A.2d
427 (App.Div. 1963) (statements made to co-workers and wife).
Footnote: 16 See e.g. United States v. Fontenot, 14 F.3d 1364 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 431, 130 L.Ed.2d 343 (1994) (affirming defendant's conviction for murdering his wife, court held statements that defendant believed he and wife were in danger were inadmissible under Rule 803(3) because they were statements of belief as opposed to state of mind). Additionally, the Notes of Advisory Committee on 1972 Proposed Rules commenting on Federal Rules of Evidence 803(3) provide:
"The exclusion of 'statements of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed' is necessary to avoid the virtual destruction of the hearsay rule which would otherwise result from allowing state of mind, provable by a hearsay statement, to serve as the basis for an inference of the happening of the event which produced the state of mind."
Footnote: 17 Rule 401 reads, in pertinent part: "'Relevant evidence' means evidence having the tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."
Footnote: 18 Rule 402 reads, in pertinent part: "All evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by the Constitution of the State of West
Virginia, by these rules, or by other rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible."
Footnote: 19 See e.g., United States v. Hartmann, 958 F.2d 774 (7th Cir. 1992) (murder victim's statements that described poor state of marriage, desire to remove wife's name from insurance policy as beneficiary, and fear that wife and wife's lover were going to
murder him were admissible under Rule 803(3) to prove victim's
attitude about insurance policies in case against defendants convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate transportation of funds obtained by fraud); United States v. Green, 680 F.2d 520 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1072, 103 S. Ct. 493, 74 L.Ed.2d 635 (1982) (probative value outweighed prejudicial effect of victim's statements in murder and kidnapping case against defendant because the statements tended to show it was unlikely victim voluntarily would have accompanied the defendant).
Footnote: 20 The defendant also argues that some of the testimony of two other witnesses should have been excluded as impermissible hearsay. Beverly Mullenax was a former employee at the Shop 'N' Save owned by Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. On direct examination by the prosecution, Ms. Mullenax admitted she knew the defendant and Linda Hedrick were involved at the time of trial. However, she stated she did not know about the relationship at the time of the victim's death. Ms. Mullenax also denied having any personal knowledge about any other romantic relationships the defendant might have had.
Tammy Samples was a close friend of the victim. The
prosecution asked Ms. Samples whether the defendant made an
"unusual comment" while she, the victim, and the defendant were
together the Saturday before the victim's death. Ms. Samples responded:
"Yes. We were joking and laughing and
carrying on in the truck and Craig bent over
and said, Tammy, you can expect an invitation
in the mail. I said, why, where are we
going? And he said when Cindy dies she wants
a funeral by invitation only, and Cindy
proceeded to say that's right. When I die I
don't want any of Craig's old sluts in the
Ms. Samples acknowledged that she considered the defendant's
comments a joke at the time.
We find no merit in the defendant's contentions with regard to Ms. Samples. The defendant waived his right to a review of the testimony of Ms. Samples by failing to object. See Tennant v. Health Care Found., Inc., ___ W. Va. ___, ___, ___ S.E.2d ___, ___ (No. 22642 6/15/95) (Slip op. at 33-34). Additionally, Ms. Mullenax's testimony referring to the defendant's past infidelities was based on firsthand knowledge, did not involve an extrajudicial statement, and was not hearsay within the contemplation of our hearsay definition. However, we believe the testimony of Ms. Mullenax was inadmissible for another reason. The prosecution argued that this evidence, although usually irrelevant, was relevant to prove motive and presumably was admissible under Rule 404(b). To the contrary, this testimony is similar to that previously condemned because the trial court failed to provide the defendant with the procedural protections we adopted in State v. McGinnis, supra.
Footnote: 21 Christopher B. Mueller & Laird C. Kirkpatrick in Section 8.38 at 934 of Evidence (1995) state:
"Using statements to prove intent,
hence later conduct by the speaker, cannot be
defended by claims of trustworthiness and
necessity so strongly as using them to prove
the speaker's state of mind as an end in
itself, where immediacy and directness are
salient points. When the purpose is to prove
conduct, statements of intent usually lack
these qualities, and they bring special
perils: It is commonplace, for example, to
exaggerate or overplay statements of intent,
to report wishful thinking as firm resolve,
to speak casually while knowing most such
statements are 'taken with a grain of salt,'
to rely on intention as substitute for
actually doing something, and even to mistake
one's own intent. And it is a familiar fact
of life that obstacles, distractions, changes of heart, and human weakness intervene between intending and doing, and passage of time may bring to light mistakes or miscalculations that led one to change course. And when the point is to prove conduct, usually there is nonhearsay evidence that can be tested by courtroom questioning."
Footnote: 22 See e.g. State v. Jackson, 94 Ariz. 117, 382 P.2d 229 (1963); Morrison v. Lowe, 267 Ark. 361, 590 S.W.2d 299 (1979); McBride v. United States, 441 A.2d 644 (D.C.App. 1982).
Footnote: 23 The only manner that Rule 803(3) could be applicable is if we stretched the exception to cover a third party's subsequent action in compliance with the declarant's state of mind. Some authorities have addressed using a declarant's state of mind to prove actions of codefendants. See 2 John W. Strong, McCormick on Evidence § 275 at 236 (noting "[t]he danger of unreliability is greatly increased when the action sought to be proved is not
one that the declarant could have performed alone, but rather is one that required the cooperation of another person"). We decline to extend Rule 803(3) in this fashion out of fear that the exception will swallow the rule. Additionally, permitting such an extension would violate the essence of the Rules of Evidence and potentially breach the constitutional rights of a defendant.
Footnote: 24 See note 10, supra.
Footnote: 25 Under Rule 105 of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence, if evidence is inadmissible under one theory but is admissible under another rule, exception, or theory, then the admission of such evidence is proper if an adequate limiting instruction is given. Arguably, the statements could have been admitted as nonhearsay as proof of motive, intent, etc., under Rule 404(b). However, the proponents of the statements would have to satisfy the requirements set forth in State v. McGinnis, supra. There was no attempt to satisfy these stringent requirements and, more importantly, the jury was never advised of any limited purpose for which the evidence could be used.
Footnote: 26 Without question, an accused is guaranteed a right to an impartial jury under the United States Constitution and the West Virginia Constitution. We stated in Syllabus Point 4 of State v. Derr, 192 W. Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994):
"'The right to a trial by an
impartial, objective jury in a criminal case
is a fundamental right guaranteed by the
Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution and Article III, Section
14 of the West Virginia Constitution. A
meaningful and effective voir dire of the
jury panel is necessary to effectuate that
fundamental right.' Syllabus Point 4, State
v. Peacher, 167 W.Va. 540, 280 S.E.2d 559
See also State v. Curtin, 175 W. Va. 318, 321, 332 S.E.2d 619, 622 (1985) ("[t]he purpose of conducting a voir dire examination of a jury is to find jurors who are qualified, not related to either party, and with no interest in the cause or sensible of any bias or prejudice"). To ensure impartiality, parties to a case are given "wide latitude in engaging in voir dire examination of such jurors." State v. McClure, 184 W. Va. 418, 422, 400 S.E.2d 853, 857 (1990). However, the ultimate question of juror qualification is left to the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. See Syl. pt. 5, in part, State v. Derr, supra ("'"In a criminal case, the inquiry made of a jury on its voir dire is within the sound discretion of the trial court and not subject to review, except when the discretion is clearly abused"'" (citation omitted)); State v. McClure, supra.
Footnote: 27 In the second part of Ross v. Oklahoma, supra, the Supreme Court found the trial court's failure to dismiss the juror for cause not only did not implicate the defendant's constitutional rights, but no state law interests were violated because the defendant was forced to use a peremptory challenge to cure the trial court's error. The Supreme Court based the second part of its holding on the fact that Oklahoma's "grant . . . [of peremptory challenges was] qualified by the requirement that the defendant must use those challenges to cure erroneous refusals by the trial court to excuse jurors for cause." 487 U.S. at 90, 108 S. Ct. at 2279, 101 L.Ed.2d at 91.
Footnote: 28 W. Va. Code, 62-3-3, reads, in pertinent part:
"In a case of felony, twenty jurors
shall be drawn from those in attendance for
the trial of the accused. If a sufficient
number of jurors for such panel cannot be
procured in this way, the court shall order
others to be forthwith summoned and selected,
until a panel of twenty jurors, free from
exception, be completed, from which panel the
accused may strike off six jurors and the
prosecuting attorney may strike off two
jurors. The prosecuting attorney shall first strike off two jurors, and then the accused six. If the accused failed to strike from such panel the number of jurors this section allows him to strike, the number not stricken off by him shall be stricken off by the prosecuting attorney, so as to reduce the panel to twelve, who shall compose the jury for the trial of the case." (Emphasis added).
Footnote: 29 A thorough review of the record does not indicate the jurors were properly informed as to what proper use could be made of the infidelity evidence. The questions asked by defense counsel assumed they knew. It must be emphasized that the trial court ruled the evidence was admissible. Because of this ruling, the jurors had every right to consider the evidence in their deliberations. The questions asked by defense counsel only focused on whether the two jurors would use this evidence against the defendant. They replied yes. Until the jurors were adequately informed that evidence of the defendant's extramarital relationships could not be used as character or impeachment evidence, their responses to the questions should not have disqualified the jurors. "The jury is the trier of the facts and
'there is no presumption that they are familiar with the law.'" State v. Lindsey, 160 W. Va. 284, 291, 233 S.E.2d 734, 739 (1977), quoting State v. Loveless, 139 W. Va. 454, 469, 80 S.E.2d 442, 450 (1954).