Dying Declaration

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A statement by a person who is conscious and knows that death is imminent concerning what he or she believes to be the cause or circumstances of death that can be introduced into evidence during a trial in certain cases.

A dying declaration is considered credible and trustworthy evidence based upon the general belief that most people who know that they are about to die do not lie. As a result, it is an exception to the hearsay rule, which prohibits the use of a statement made by someone other than the person who repeats it while testifying during a trial, because of its inherent untrustworthiness. If the person who made the dying declaration had the slightest hope of recovery, no matter how unreasonable, the statement is not admissible into evidence. A person who makes a dying declaration must, however, be competent at the time he or she makes a statement, otherwise, it is inadmissible.

A dying declaration is usually introduced by the prosecution, but can be used on behalf of the accused.

As a general rule, courts refuse to admit dying declarations in civil cases, even those for wrongful death, or in criminal actions for crimes other than the homicide of the decedent.

State and federal rules of evidence govern the use of dying declarations in their respective proceedings.

further readings

Adelkoff, Sherri K. 1998. "Dialing 'M' for Murder: Analyzing the Admissibility of the Telephone Dying Declaration." Duquesne Law Review 36 (spring): 545–61.

Bernstein, Michelle A. 1997."Evidence—A Modern Application of Dying-Declaration Exception to Hearsay Rule." Suffolk University Law Review 30 (summer): 575–81.