Hayes v. State
In Hayes v. State, 474 P.3d 1179 (Alaska Ct. App. 2020), the court of appeals held that the hearsay exception for a child crime victim’s recorded statement in Alaska Evidence Rule 801(d)(3) covers statements where the victim is under sixteen years old at the time of the recording but over sixteen years old at the time of trial. (Id. at 1186). Hayes began living with his girlfriend and her five minor daughters in 2007 and started sexually abusing the oldest daughter, S.D., in 2008 when she was fourteen years old. (Id. at 1182). Hayes began sexually abusing two of the other daughters, N.E. and K.E., in subsequent years. (Id.) All three victims testified to his abuse at trial in 2016, and the State additionally presented video testimony that N.E., who was thirteen at the time, and K.E. gave in 2012. (Id.) The trial court admitted the video testimony under Alaska Evidence Rule 801(d)(3), which exempts “a recorded statement by the victim of a crime who is less than 16 years of age” from the hearsay prohibition. (Id. at 1183). On appeal, Hayes argued that because N.E. was eighteen at the time of trial, the hearsay exception applies only if the victim is under sixteen at the time of trial and would thus preclude N.E.’s recorded statement. (Id.) The court of appeals disagreed, reasoning that while a court could read the present tense in the statute to refer to either the victim’s age at the time of the statement or at the time of trial, the former reading is more natural. (Id. at 1183). The court further reasoned that the legislative history behind the hearsay exception supports this interpretation because of the dual purpose of the exception to both present evidence of abuse to the jury and minimize the trauma involved in testifying. (Id. at 1184–85). Accordingly, the court of appeals held that the hearsay exception to Alaska Evidence Rule 801(d)(3) that allows admission of a recorded statement by a victim under the age of sixteen refers to the victim’s age at the time of the recording, not the time of trial. (Id. at 1186).