Late last month, an Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on a defendant’s appeal of his conviction for aggravated assault against a police officer. In writing its decision, the court considered the defendant’s argument that his trial result should be overturned due to unfair testimony offered by a police officer on the stand. Ultimately, the court disagreed with the defendant’s contentions, and the original verdict was affirmed.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, police were responding to a report of theft in the parking lot of a Family Dollar store when they spotted the defendant in this case. The defendant matched the description of the suspect they were looking for, so they approached him to investigate the situation. As soon as the officers approached, the defendant began running away, at which point one officer took the defendant by the arm and reached for his handcuffs.
Subsequently, the defendant swung his elbow back towards the officer and pushed the officer away. The officer fell to the ground, and the defendant continued to run. The officer was later treated at the hospital and diagnosed with a head injury as a result of the incident.
The defendant was charged and convicted of aggravated assault against a police officer. He appealed his guilty conviction.
On appeal, the defendant’s main argument was that the court incorrectly admitted testimony from a police officer that had witnessed the altercation. According to the defendant, the officer’s testimony was hearsay, which is not allowed to be entered into evidence. The officer testified during trial that he saw the defendant knock down and assault the arresting officer, as well as that the defendant then took off running into the nearby neighborhood.
Because hearsay is any statement made outside of the courtroom that is offered to prove a specific matter inside the courtroom, it is inherently not credible. Thus, said the defendant, the testifying officer’s statement lacked credibility and should not have been included during his trial.
The court considered this argument but ultimately disagreed. While the court acknowledged that the defendant’s definition of hearsay was correct, it concluded that the officer’s statement did not actually qualify as hearsay. The purpose of the statement, said the court, was not to prove any specific matter inside the courtroom; instead, the purpose of the statement was to provide context as to why the testifying officer then went to search for the defendant in the nearby neighborhood. Given this unique purpose, the statement did not actually fall under the umbrella of “hearsay”, and it was acceptable for the trial court to consider the statement in deciding the defendant’s case.
The defendant’s appeal was thus denied, and the court kept the original conviction and sentence in place.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in the State of Arizona?
If you are currently defending yourself against assault charges in Arizona, give us a call at The Law Office of James E. Novak. We understand that there is more to any story than meets the eye, and we offer individualized, holistic representation that takes into account your needs and perspectives. For a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 480-413-1499.