Johnny Football and the Rule Against Hearsay (Part One)

Johnny_Manziel_in_Kyle_Field.jpgThe rule against hearsay is one of the fundamental rules of the American justice system. It is very similar, although not completely identical, to the rule requiring confrontation of witnesses in a criminal case, i.e., the right to confront one’s accusers. Our nation’s founders were very disturbed at English prosecutions, such as that of Sir Walter Raleigh, based primarily upon letters from third parties as key evidence. Common sense also dictates that a person telling you what they heard another person say, as if they had observed the events personally, is not in any way as reliable as a first-person recollection of events. Texas Rule of Evidence 801(d) states: “‘Hearsay’ is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Rule 802 says “Hearsay is not admissible except as provided by statute or these rules or by other rules prescribed pursuant to statutory authority…”

So why did I put Johnny Manziel in the title other than a selfish desire for internet search-ability? Because the Johnny Manziel case as we know it is pure hearsay on many levels. A junior reporter (Darren Rovell) at ESPN claims he talked with an autograph broker who said Johnny Manziel autographed numerous items for him in a single setting. The same reporter says he saw a video of Johnny Manziel signing numerous items (though we haven’t seen the video). So why can’t the reporter’s article simply be admitted in court as proof that Johnny Manziel signed numerous items in violation of an NCAA rule? Or, what if the case were brought in a Texas criminal court, due to the fact that certain NCAA violations (recruiting violations) actually can be criminal activity in Texas?