State v. RutherfordAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of operating under the influence, holding that the trial court erred by admitting, as an adoptive admission and over Defendant's objection, the inculpatory statement of Defendant's friend, who did not testify at trial.
The court admitted the friend's statement as an admission adopted by Defendant, ruling that the statement was admissible as an opposing party's statement. The friend was not present at trial and did not testify. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) under these circumstances, the defendant must undertake an observable action, either through words or conduct, by which a reasonable person would understand that the defendant did, in fact, adopt the statement; (2) although a statement may be admissible as an admission of a party in a civil case if the statement would, in context, caller a reply, this standard does not apply in a criminal trial because of a defendant's constitutionally protected right to remain silent; and (3) Defendant's silence in this case could not be construed as an adoption of the friend's statement. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings.