Chisum v. State

In Chisum v. State, 273 Ark. 1, 616 S.W.2d 728 (1981), the witness, appellant's sister, professed to have forgotten what she told the sheriff concerning the shooting death of a Mr. Rackley; in her testimony, she testified to nothing unfavorable to appellant, and she could not remember any of her statements to the sheriff that implicated appellant. The trial court allowed the sheriff and his secretary to narrate the statement made by the witness, and our supreme court ruled that this evidence was properly admissible despite the witness's professed lack of memory, relying upon the following reasoning from Billings v. State, 52 Ark. 303, 12 S.W. 574 (1889): "The statute does not place the right to impeach a witness by proof of contradictory statements, upon the condition of his denial. It requires his cross-examination upon the matter; nothing more. This is exacted in order that he may explain apparent contradictions and reconcile seeming conflicts and inconsistencies. If he cannot remember the fact, he is unable to do what the law affords him the opportunity to do. If he cannot remember the statement made, it is quite as probable that his recollection of the occurrence about which he testifies is inaccurate or incorrect. If contradiction properly affects the value of his testimony when he denies, it is difficult to see why it should not when he ignores the contradictory or inconsistent statements. The testimony is discredited because he affirms today what he denied yesterday; the legitimate effect of such contradiction cannot depend upon his power to remember it. If the defect in the memory is real, the proof of the contradiction apprises the jury of this infirmity of the witness; if he has made a false statement under the pretense of not remembering, he should not escape contradiction and exposure. We think the evidence was properly admitted." (273 Ark. at 8, 616 S.W.2d at 731.) In Chisum, supra, the defense objected to the proffered statements on hearsay grounds, and the trial court admitted the statements, finding that they were admissible for impeachment as inconsistent out-of-court statements.