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State v. Cazares-Mendez
Oregon Supreme Court
256 P.3d 104 (2011)
Jessie Valero was stabbed 29 times and found dead in her apartment; there were indications that a robbery might have also taken place. Jose Cazares-Mendez and Jorge Reyes-Sanchez (defendants) were charged with the murder and robbery. However, another person, Tiffany Scherer, spontaneously confessed to four different people that she had stabbed a woman to death during an argument. In one confession, Scherer even specifically identified the woman as Valero. Scherer included details in the confessions that matched the crime, such as the high number of stab wounds and the robbery evidence. Scherer also told one person that the victim had suffered a seizure, which was a significant statement because Valero had epilepsy. Three of Scherer’s confessions occurred shortly after Valero’s death, and the fourth happened a few months later. Cazares-Mendez was tried first. At his trial, Cazares-Mendez attempted to introduce evidence of Scherer’s confessions. However, Scherer now claimed that she did not know Valero and had never confessed. Cazares-Mendez offered to have the four witnesses testify about Scherer’s confessions using the hearsay exception for an unavailable witness’s statements against interest. But the exception did not apply because Scherer was available as a witness, and the trial court excluded the witness testimony. At his later trial, Reyes-Sanchez also tried to introduce the same confession testimony under the residual exception for hearsay. However, because the testimony was a near miss under the statement-against-interest exception, the state’s near-miss doctrine prevented use of the residual exception, and the trial court excluded the testimony again. Both Cazares-Mendez and Reyes-Sanchez were convicted and appealed, arguing that excluding testimony about Scherer’s confessions violated their due-process rights.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Balmer, J.)
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