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Party Admissions in Criminal Cases: Should the Government Have to Eat Its Words?
Minnesota Law Review (2002)
  • Anne Poulin
As currently applied, evidence law gives the government an unfair advantage in criminal trials because the prosecution is not responsible for prior statements made by agents acting or speaking for the government. Many courts have held, and most general sources agree, that in criminal cases the statements of government agents are not admissible over hearsay objections as party admissions. The defendant is therefore precluded from even informing the jury of helpful statements made by government agents. Dealing with admissions by government agents in this manner leaves the government free to change its position without repercussions and creates the risk of unfairness. This article reevaluates the use of party admissions against the government and concludes that it should be expanded. After summarizing the law of party admissions prior to the adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the article explores the adoption of the Rules and the resistance by courts to apply the Rules so as to admit party admissions against the government. It analyzes the way in which the rules governing party admissions should apply to governmental admissions, explaining how the requirements of the rules governing adoptive and vicarious admissions should apply to statements made or adopted by the government. Professor Poulin concludes that both the text of the Rules and simple fairness require that the defendant be permitted to introduce evidence of government admissions. Although the government cannot be bound by the previous statements of its agents, juries should still be allowed to weigh these admissions together with all the other evidence in the case.
Publication Date
August, 2002
Citation Information
Anne Poulin. "Party Admissions in Criminal Cases: Should the Government Have to Eat Its Words?" Minnesota Law Review Vol. 87 (2002)
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