The hearsay rule: How it helped Roberto Miramontes Roman, who was acquitted of murder
Sentencing Wednesday on lesser charges in death of deputy
As it was, Hilder saw a few problems with Ryan Greathouse's written statement — including those raised by defense attorneys. The main issue Hilder noted was that Greathouse couldn't be cross-examined or confronted.
"I cannot imagine a way that Judge Eyre could have let in Ryan's statement," Hilder said. "But then you say, 'Well for heaven's sake, why do we let Roman say what happened?' Well, Roman was reporting as a purported eyewitness. He may have been telling the truth, he may have been lying through his teeth, but he was sitting on the stand, under oath, saying, 'I saw this happen' and he could be cross-examined."
But that isn't to say that blaming a crime on an unavailable witness is the fail-safe defense. Hilder said Roman's story was more believable because he placed himself in the car at the time of the shooting.
"Roman did something that helped his position to say, 'I was there. I saw it. I was part of this,'" Hilder explained. "If he said, 'I had nothing to do with this, but I heard from a guy in a bar that Greathouse did it,' that's solely hearsay. There's no evidentiary basis for the claim."
In the face of Roman's story, prosecutors had few tools available in their arsenal.
"I'm not sure what (Finlinson) could have done to stop that," Hilder said. "I think he probably did what he could do. I mean if someone gets on the stand and raises his hand and says, 'I'll tell the truth,' the only real check is cross examination and he had that.
"The prosecutors undoubtedly worked everything they had. The judge did his job. He couldn't bring in what he couldn't bring in and if he had, we'd be waiting for the reversal."
The rules are part of the legal system that, Hilder said, pitches two gladiators against each other and charges them with bringing the truth to light. Judges are the gatekeepers and they have to allow and disallow evidence as they see fit, with as much integrity as they can.
"With Roman, none of us can say 100 percent whether he did it or not," Hilder said. A lot of people feel very strongly he did and there's no reason to think they're wrong. 'Not guilty' does not mean he didn't do it. No one suggests it does. What it does mean, is that it wasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Finlinson said the decision to not call Roman's co-defendant, Chavez-Reyes — who told investigators that Roman had admitted to him that he'd killed a police officer — was not an oversight. He said he could not comment on why that decision was made.
He reiterated that the decision Eyre made not to allow jurors to hear all of Ryan Greathouse's statement about that night was not the crucial moment of the case — although he still would have liked more of the explanation behind the decision. He still felt they presented a good case and provided ample evidence for jurors.
"I'm not pointing a finger at anyone," Finlinson said. "It happened and we moved forward. But it was a rough couple of weeks."
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