Defendant, charged with robbery, claimed that he did not remember committing the offense and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. A psychiatrist who examined the defendant prior to trial was asked by the defense to state from his examination whether he considered the defendant insane and also to state the basis for his conclusion. The trial court refused to admit the psychiatrist's testimony, sustaining the objection that it was based on self-serving statements made by the accused to the psychiatrist and consequently hearsay. Held: the refusal to allow the psychiatrist to state his opinion concerning defendant's sanity was prejudicial error.
The hearsay rule states that no extra-judicial assertion offered as testimony can be received unless it has been open to test by cross-examination. Since the hearsay rule often conflicts with the need of the court and jury to receive the benefit of expert evidence, an exception has been made in the case of opinion testimony of a physician based upon statements made to him by the patient in the course of treatment. The exception, however, will not allow the admission of the physician's testimony if the patient made statements to the physician solely to qualify the physician as a witness. The exception is further limited to the admission of statements made by the patient to the physician concerning symptoms of an injury or illness, and does not apply to statements concerning the cause of the injury or illness. While the physician's exception has been consistently applied in personal injury cases, courts have had difficulty applying it in insanity proceedings.
Recent Cases: Evidence — Hearsay Rule — Expert Testimony by Physician in Insanity Proceedings,
33 Neb. L. Rev. 513
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