Second, the personal knowledge requirement assures that the statement is
reliable by affording the defendant an adequate opportunity for cross-examination
and because it is less likely that a witness with personal knowledge of the
underlying event will repeat a statement that he knows to be untrue. Construing
the personal knowledge requirement to apply only to the making of the statement
would undermine both factors, because the opportunity for effective cross-examination
would be compromised and because the witness would have no
independent knowledge whether the statement is true.
Finally, the State’s interpretation of the personal knowledge requirement
would render that requirement meaningless, because a witness who testifies about
a hearsay statement necessarily has knowledge that the statement was made.
Thus, the trial court erred by admitting the portions of the uncle’s audio
taped and written statements recounting defendant’s hearsay statements, because
the uncle had no personal knowledge of the incident other than what the
2. The court rejected the State’s argument that even if the prior inconsistent
statements were not admissible substantively, they should have been admitted as
impeachment. Although prior inconsistent statements may be admitted as
impeachment, the State may impeach its own witness only if the witness’s
testimony affirmatively damaged the State’s case. To be subject to impeachment,
the testimony must do more than merely disappoint the State by failing to
incriminate the defendant. Instead, the testimony must give “positive aid” to the
The mere fact that a witness claims a lack of memory does not affirmatively
damage the State’s case. Thus, impeachment was not justified by the uncle’s
claim that he could not remember the statements.
3. The court acknowledged that the State’s case is damaged by a witness’s
claim that someone other than the defendant committed the offense. Where the
witness was not “seriously” confessing to having committed the offense, however,
and was simply trying to avoid testifying against the defendant, no damage was
done to the State’s case. Thus, impeachment was not justified.
4. The court concluded, however, that the erroneous admission of the prior
inconsistent statements was harmless where the uncle made nearly identical
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.