Can An Out-Of-Court Statment Used to Show a Logical Sequence of Events Contain Specific Details of Criminal Activity ?
In State v. Baird, 572 So. 2d 904 (Fla. 1990), the defendant was charged with multiple counts of racketeering and bookmaking. See 572 So. 2d at 905.
At trial, an FDLE special agent was allowed to testify that he had "received information that he Baird was a major gambler and operating a major gambling operation in the Pensacola area," in response to the prosecutor's question as to whether he had targeted Baird for prosecution. Id.
On review, we rejected the State's argument that the testimony established the special agent's motive in investigating Baird because, at that point in the trial, "no evidence of selective prosecution or bad motives . . . by the investigating officers had been offered by the defense." Id. at 907.
We also determined:
When the only purpose for admitting testimony relating accusatory information received from an informant is to show a logical sequence of events leading up to an arrest, the need for the evidence is slight and the likelihood of misuse is great.
In light of the inherently prejudicial effect of an out-of-court statement that the defendant engaged in the criminal activity for which he is being tried, we agree that when the only relevance of such a statement is to show a logical sequence of events leading up to an arrest, the better practice is to allow the officer to state that he acted upon a "tip" or "information received," without going into the details of the accusatory information. Id. at 908.
Court ultimately found the error harmless because the testimony was only elicited prematurely; was offered to rebut Baird's contention that he was selectively prosecuted; was neither focused upon nor brought to the jury's attention again; and, finally, because the State based its case on substantial evidence properly admitted during trial. See id.