Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, the North Carolina Supreme Court acknowledged the apparent absurdity of convicting one for a crime to which another had confessed extra-judicially without permitting introduction of that confession as proof of the accused's innocence. The emotional appeal of the court's statement notwithstanding, a majority of states have barred such confessions through their courts' refusal to recognize the declaration against penal interest exception to the hearsay rule. While sound evidentiary theory buttresses the majority's position, at least from an historical perspective, the erosion of the hearsay rule, among other factors, has led a growing minority of states to adopt the penal interest exception in some form. Using the opportunity afforded by State v. Haywood (hereinafter Haywood), Chief Justice Sharp announced that in the future North Carolina will adhere to the growing minority's position by allowing admission of such declarations upon the satisfaction of specified conditions. Since the court decided Haywood on other grounds, the announcement was dicta; however, without a wholesale change in attitude, undoubtedly the principle of Haywood will become law. Accordingly, this note will treat the penal interest exception as such and will review its history, rationale and consequences.
Samuel W. Meekins, Evidence - North Carolina and Declarations Against Penal Interest, 1 Campbell L. Rev. 161 (1979).