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Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rules Text Messages Were Inadmissible Hearsay

Posted Sep 28, 2011 7:33 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned a woman’s drug conviction because text messages on her phone were admitted as evidence at trial.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court said there was no showing that the defendant wrote the 13 drug-related text messages and they were inadmissible hearsay, the Legal Intelligencer (reg. req.) reports.

The defendant, Amy Koch, had been convicted of possession with intent to deliver marijuana and possession of marijuana as an accomplice.

The trial court had reasoned that doubts about the identity of the sender or recipient of text messages went to the weight of the evidence rather than admissibility. “We disagree,” the appeals court opinion said. “Authentication is a prerequisite to admissibility. … Circumstantial evidence, which tends to corroborate the identity of the sender, is required.”

Such authentication evidence was not offered in Koch’s case, the court said. “Glaringly absent in this case is any evidence tending to substantiate that appellant wrote the drug-related text messages. No testimony was presented from persons who sent or received the text messages. There are no contextual clues in the drug-related text messages themselves tending to reveal the identity of the sender.”

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