During trial you may see an attorney jump from his seat and scream out “Objection, that’s hearsay!”
The judge will then have to decide whether the witness can or cannot answer the question.
First, what exactly is hearsay?
Technically, it’s an out-of-court statement being offered for the truth of the matter.
“Huh?” you ask.
Not to worry. Let me explain in English :-)
When a witness is testifying and is asked a question about a conversation he overheard or participated in, he may say “John told me that the driver went through a red light and caused the accident.”
The moment he says “John told me...” the attorneys know and the judge knows that what he is about to say next is a comment from someone who is not currently in the courtroom and may not be called to testify at trial.
That’s known as ‘hearsay’.
The judge will rightfully stop a witness from telling the jury about anything he overheard from someone who is not in court and not planning to testify about those comments.
The answer is simple.
If the witness says “John told me that he saw the driver of the other car go through the red light and caused this accident,” the defense attorney will not have an opportunity to question and cross-examine John who actually witnessed the event.
The defense lawyer will not have the ability to probe that person’s credibility. As a result, when the defense attorney jumps up from his seat and yells “Objection, hearsay!” the judge will have no choice but to agree with him and tell the witness not to continue.
There is an important exception here.
If the person who made the statement is a party to the lawsuit, then the witness who is testifying will be permitted to tell the jury about their conversations and what that other person said.