What Are the Exceptions to the General Rule That a Homicide Victim's Hearsay Statements Are Inadmissible ?
In Peede v. State, 474 So. 2d 808, 816 (Fla. 1985), the victim's statements were highly relevant in demonstrating that her "state of mind" was that she specifically did not want to leave the Miami area with the defendant and that she was afraid of what the defendant might do when she picked him up from the airport.
A victim-declarant's hearsay statements may not be used to prove the state of mind or motive of the defendant. See Woods v. State, 733 So. 2d 980, 987 (Fla. 1999); Hodges v. State, 595 So. 2d 929, 931-32 (Fla. 1992); Downs v. State, 574 So. 2d 1095, 1098 (Fla. 1991).
Moreover, "a homicide victim's state of mind prior to the fatal event generally is neither at issue nor probative of any material issue raised in the murder prosecution." Woods, 733 So. 2d at 987.
However, there are several exceptions to the general rule that a homicide victim's hearsay statements are inadmissible. See Brooks v. State, 787 So. 2d 765, 771 (Fla. 2001).
First, a victim's state of mind is at issue when it goes to a material element of the crime. See Peede v. State, 474 So. 2d 808 (Fla. 1985) (holding that victim's state of mind was relevant as an element of kidnapping to show that she was forcibly abducted against her will);
See also Pacifico v. State, 642 So. 2d 1178, 1185 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) (holding that state of mind of victim was at issue to show she did not consent to sexual intercourse in trial for sexual battery).
Second, "the victim's state of mind may become relevant to an issue in the case where the defendant claims: (1) self-defense;
(2) that the victim committed suicide;
(3) that the death was accidental." Stoll v. State, 762 So. 2d 870, 874-75 (Fla. 2000).
Third, a homicide victim's state of mind "may become an issue to rebut a defense raised by the defendant." Id. at 875 (citing State v. Bradford, 658 So. 2d 572, 574-575 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995)).
Even if one of these exceptions applies or the victim's state of mind is relevant under the particular facts of the case, the prejudice inherent in developing such evidence frequently outweighs the need for its introduction. See Fleming v. State, 457 So. 2d 499, 501 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984).