WEB POSTED 12-26-2000

What do death-bed confessions reveal?

On October 31st, at Chicago, Midway Airport, I conducted a short but meaningful interview with Minister Arif Muhammad, who is one of the attorneys for the Nation of Islam. It concerned the value of the deathbed-dying declaration of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan last year.

Brother Jabril Muhammad: “Minister Arif, the question I have involves the concept of what’s called “death-bed confessions” or “dying declarations”. In my mind at present, there are four kinds. There may be more. A man did a crime then confessed to it, now he’s about to be electrocuted or otherwise put to death. At the last moment, and in his last words, he admits it. He confesses. Then there is a man who, up to the last minute states no, I didn’t do it, even up to the last minute, he protests his innocence. And then there is the person who is dying, or for any reason, sees his/her self as dying. They’re right there at death’s door. They’re in their bed. There is no criminal situation involved but they decide to make certain statements that their loved ones, friends, or whoever, with the thought in mind, or with the conviction that they’re dying. And then there is the person who makes such a statement while in the state of subconscious or unconsciousness, or for some medical reason is unaware of what they have said that others heard. Others witnessed what the person said. They all heard what the person said.

“Now I want to know, what is the value and weight of these kinds of statements, in a court of law? How high do they rank in terms of those things considered trustworthy?

Minister Attorney Arif Muhammad: ” Under the rules of evidence called hearsay, statements by a third party in court attempting to testify as to statements made by another person as being true are not allowable. This rule is based upon the principle that only the person who made the statement can testify as to his or her state of mind at the time he or she made the statement.

“There are, however, what’s called exceptions to the hearsay rule. Based upon these exceptions, the judge will allow statements to be offered to establish the truth of the declarant’s state of mind. The exception to the hearsay rule which is commonly known as the ‘dying declaration,’ generally occurs in the context of a homicide, where the person who is about to expire states the causes or circumstances of their impending death. This statement is offered to prove who the victim identified as the murderer. The factual circumstances under which the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan made his statements thanking Allah for his life, and bearing witness to the glory and majesty of Allah, and that Allah is the author of life and death is analogous in principle to the ‘dying declaration.’

“If the state of mind of the declarant is an issue before the court, then a dying declaration is admitted into evidence by the court as a statement of truth regarding the declarant’s views and thoughts at the time the statements were made. Thus, the declarant’s statement is given the weight of evidence of truth and veracity. The underlying principle of accepting a dying declarant’s statement is because it deals with a person resolving their conscience with their God; clearing their conscience before God, as they know that they’re about ready to meet their Maker.

“And so it is presumed that a person knowing that this is their circumstances, would not knowingly leave this planet making a false statement; and that in fact the statement that they would make is a true statement.

‘There is, however, another exception to the hearsay rule which I believe also applies to this situation. It is called “statement of a then mental or emotional condition.” It is offered to establish the truth of the declarant’s state of mind or emotions or sensations at the time he made the statements. It relates to the execution, revocation, identification, or terms of the declarant’s will.

“Now clearly in the case where a declarant is in a subconscious state and is making a declaration that even they are not aware of at the time, but others hear that, that is a higher degree of quality of trustworthiness and veracity because the statement is being made from the deep re