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Tome v. United States

United States Supreme Court
513 U.S. 150 (1995)


Tome (defendant) had primary physical custody of his four-year-old daughter, A.T. A.T.’s mother had been unsuccessful in her efforts to get full custody. After A.T. spent the summer with her mother, the mother reported that Tome had sexually abused A.T. Tome was charged and tried in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, because the events took place on the Navajo Indian Reservation. At trial, Tome defended himself on the ground that the charges were made up so that A.T. could live with her mother. A.T. testified, but she was not very forthcoming about what happened. The prosecution sought to introduce into evidence seven out-of-court statements made by A.T. to six witnesses describing the alleged sexual abuse. Tome objected, but the prosecution argued that the evidence was needed to rebut the implicit allegation that A.T. was lying. The district court admitted the statements under Rule 801(d)(1)(B). The prosecution placed great weight on the statements during closing arguments, but made no reference to the alleged purpose of rehabilitating A.T.’s testimony. The jury found Tome guilty. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the statements were admissible even though they were made after the motive to lie arose. The court of appeals explained that the pre-motive requirement for such statements related to relevancy, not hearsay rules. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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