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Bank Statements are not Hearsay

Allan Jackson v. State of Maryland, No. 78-115230020 (Maryland Court of Appeals, July 12, 2018),  available at: https://www.courts.state.md.us/data/opinions/coa/2018/78a17.pdf.

(August 6, 2018) Garrett Cusack, Summer Associate.

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Under Md. Rule 5-901, authentication of evidence is a condition precedent to admissibility. The Rule provides that the requirement is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims. The following case explores the intersection of this rule with Md. Rule 5-803(b)(6), Maryland’s business records exception to the rule against hearsay.

Allan Jackson was convicted on nine separate criminal counts stemming from an alleged home invasion. The State argued that Jackson stole cash and a PNC Bank card from his victim, which he used to make four unauthorized withdrawals from a Bank of America ATM. At trial, Jackson challenged the admissibility of a bank statement record used by the State, arguing that the evidence lacked the authenticity required under the Maryland Rules of Evidence. In addition, he challenged the admissibility of a compact disk containing video surveillance footage on similar grounds.

Considering the issue on appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals began by addressing the admissibility of the video surveillance. Jackson argued that the video surveillance was not properly authenticated because the video does not show what the state claimed, a withdrawal of $200 from the victim’s bank account. The State maintained that the footage was properly authenticated based on the testimony of a Bank of America employee, who testified that the video was a reliable and accurate depiction of the events that transpired. Emphasizing that the Bank of America employee was unable to “modify, cut, paste, or enhance the video in any way”, the Court of Appeals found that the employee’s testimony as to the reliability of the video footage was sufficient to establish its authenticity under Md. Rule 5-901.

The Court next considered the admissibility of the bank statements. Jackson argued that the admissibility of this evidence is governed by Md. Rule 5-902, which describes the procedure for admitting “self-authenticating documents.” However, the Court rejected Jackson’s application of this rule, instead finding that the admissibility of the records was governed by Md. Rule 5-901 and Md. Rule 5-804(b)(6), Maryland’s version of the “business records exception” to hearsay. Beginning with Rule 5-901, the Court found that the victim’s testimony as to the transactions he did and did not make was sufficient to authenticate the bank statements.

The Court then discussed the rationale for admitting the bank statements under Maryland’s business records exception to hearsay. It noted that, under Maryland case law, bank statements are deemed to have sufficient indicia of reliability to qualify for the exception. Therefore, the question for the court was whether the bank statements satisfied the requirements of Rule 5-803(b)(6). Finding that PNC produced the bank statements at or near the time of the unauthorized withdrawals and that it was the regular practice of PNC bank to make and keep these statements, the Court found that the bank statements could be admitted under the business records exception.