In re M.A.E., 242 N.C. App. 312 (2015) (originally unpublished but subsequently published)


  • Rule 803(24) of the NC Rules of Evidence allows for the admission of hearsay that is not specifically identified in Rule 803 if the statement
    • has the equivalent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness,
    • is offered as evidence of a material fact, and
    • is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence that the proponent can obtain through reasonable efforts, and
    • the general purposes of the rules of evidence and the interests of justice will be best served by the statement’s admission.
  • A party must give notice to the adverse party of his/her intent to use the statement.
  • Admission of a hearsay statement pursuant to Rule 803(24) is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. The court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted the 8-year old child’s statements to the DSS social worker that were made at school or to a forensic interviewer made the next day at the children’s advocacy center (this was videotaped).
  • The child’s statements were more probative than other evidence that was reasonably available to DSS even though the court did not rule specifically on whether the child was available to testify. The record showed the child’s testimony would be detrimental to her welfare.
  • When determining if the statement has a circumstantial guarantee of trustworthiness, the court must consider four factors (“the Valentine factors”):
    • Whether the declarant had personal knowledge of the underlying events,
    • Whether the declarant is motivated to speak the truth,
    • Whether the declarant has ever recanted the statement, and
    • Whether the declarant is available at trial for meaningful cross-examination.
  • Failure to make findings of all four Valentine factors is not fatal, for an appellate court will look to the entire record to determine if the statement is admissible.
    • The record contains evidence that the child was unavailable at trial due to the detrimental affect testifying would have on her welfare.
    • The record contains evidence that the child was motivated to speak the truth when she made the statements. She was in a comfortable and safe setting, used age-appropriate language, was asked open ended questions, and did not appear afraid or upset.
  • When determining the guarantee of trustworthiness of the statement, a court will look at whether the witness is capable of expressing herself about the matter so as to be understood and of understanding the duty to tell the truth. The court did not abuse its discretion when determining the statement had a guarantee of trustworthiness when the court found the child understood the difference between the truth and a lie but would be unlikely to understand the concept of swearing on a bible.
  • The court declined to review the admission of the 12-year old child’s hearsay statements because the respondents were not prejudiced by the admission of these statements. There was sufficient independent evidence that supported the trial court’s findings and conclusions.


Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Adjudicatory Hearing
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