Admissions of a Party Opponent

Words or acts of a party or a party’s representative may be offered in evidence against the party as an exception to the hearsay rule.  (The Federal Rules of Evidence consider such “admissions” to be non-hearsay.)

Unlike many hearsay exceptions, the rationale for this exception is not based on any assurances of special reliability for this type of statement.  Instead, based on the adversary theory of litigation, it rests on the recognition that a “party can hardly object that he had no opportunity to cross-examine himself or that he is unworthy of credence save when speaking under the sanction of an oath.”  McCormick on Evidence §254.

An “admission” admitted under this exception might vicarious; in other words, it might be made by a co-defendant or co-conspirator, an agent or representative or by someone other than the party against whom the statement is offered, assuming the proponent of the evidence can meet certain conditions.  For example, in the case of a statement by a co-conspirator, the statement could only be admitted if the government were able to prove that (1) a conspiracy existed, (2) the defendant had a connection to the conspiracy, and (3) the co-conspirator made the statement during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy.  Butler v. United States, 481 A.2d 431 (D.C. 1984). 

Admissions of a party under this exception are received as substantive evidence of the facts admitted and not merely to contradict the party.  As a result, the proponent of the evidence does not need to lay a foundation by first confronting the party with it.  Powell v. United States, 414 A.2d 530, 533 (D.C. 1980).  A party’s silence in the fact of another person’s statement, which the party would naturally have been expected to deny if untrue, may be admitted as circumstantial evidence of the party’s belief in the truth of the statement.  See United States v. Hale, 422 U.S. 171, 176 (1975).