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Hearsay

"Hearsay" is one of those rules where the basic idea is simple, but it has about a million complicated exceptions. Many lawyers, prosecutors, and even judges get confused by the rules and exceptions in the heat of a trial or hearing. I will not be addressing all the different exceptions here, but will simply explain what the basic idea is. Hearsay is basically when a witness tries to testify that something is true because someone else told them so. For instance, if I were to testify and say "The Titans lost last night, I didn't see it but my friend Bob told me so" then that would be considered "hearsay" because I didn't see it for myself; I'm relying on what Bob told me. So, the general rule is that a witness can only testify about things that he or she has "personal knowledge" of, like things that he or she has seen, smelled, heard, touched, or otherwise personally observed, not things that he or she is simply repeating from others. Another example would be Harold testifying, "John said that he saw James steal the car." Harold can't testify to what John told him that James did; Harold has to see it for himself.