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Betts v. Betts

Washington Court of Appeals
473 P.2d 403 (1970)


Facts

After Michael Betts (plaintiff) and Rita Betts (defendant) divorced in California, Rita moved with the couple’s two children, James and Tracey Lynn, to Washington where she began living with Raymond Caporale. James died from injuries to his head and body two weeks later, after which Tracey Lynn was placed in protective custody. Caporale was charged with James’ murder but was acquitted for lack of evidence and Rita and Caporale later married while Tracey Lynn remained in foster care. Michael commenced an action against Rita for custody of Tracey Lynn. At trial, the court allowed Tracey Lynn’s foster mother to testify as to statements made by Tracey Lynn in reference to Caporale, including “He’s mean,” and “He killed my brother and he’ll kill my mommie too.” The trial court found that Tracey Lynn’s statements would tend to create “a strained relationship” between Tracey Lynn and Caporale if custody was awarded to Rita and granted custody to Michael. Rita appealed to the Washington Court of Appeals, asserting that the trial court erred by allowing Tracey Lynn’s foster mother to give testimony containing statements made by Tracey Lynn, which Rita claimed was hearsay. Rita further argued that Tracey Lynn’s statements were not admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule because Tracey Lynn would not have been competent to testify due to her young age.

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Holding and Reasoning (Armstrong, C.J.)

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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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