State v. Sargeantt, 365 N.C. 58 (Mar. 11, 2011)

Modifying and affirming State v. Sargeant, 206 N.C. App. 1 (Aug. 3, 2010), the court held that the trial court committed prejudicial error by excluding defense evidence of hearsay statements made by a participant in the murder, offered under the Rule 804(b)(5) residual exception. The court noted that the only factor in dispute under the six-factor residual exception test was circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness. To evaluate that factor, a court must assess, among other things, (1) the declarant's personal knowledge of the event; (2) the declarant's motivation to speak the truth; (3) whether the declarant recanted; and (4) the reason for the declarant's unavailability. Because the record established that the declarant had personal knowledge and never recanted, the court focused it analysis on factors (2) and (4). The court found that the trial court’s conclusions that these considerations had not been satisfied were made on the basis of inaccurate and incomplete findings of fact used to reach unsupported conclusions of law.