Tome v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Petitioner, Tome (the “Petitioner”), was charged with felony sexual abuse of a child, his own four-year-old daughter.

Facts of the case

Matthew Wayne Tome was charged with sexually abusing his daughter, who was four years old at the time of the alleged crime. Tome and the child’s mother were divorced and Tome had primary physical custody of the child, but the mother was awarded custody in 1990. The prosecution argued that the sexual abuse occurred while the child was with Tome, but was not discovered until the child spent vacation time with her mother. Tome argued that the allegations were fabricated to keep the child from being returned to him. The prosecution produced six witnesses who testified to verify the out of court statements made by the child. The out of court statements were all made after the motive to fabricate would have arisen. The district court admitted the statements into evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B), which state that prior statements of a witness are not hearsay is they are consistent with the witness’ testimony and are offered to rebut a charge of “recent fabrication or improper influence of motive.” Tome was convicted. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed, holding that the proper test was to weigh the probative value against their prejudicial effect, not whether statements were made before or after the motive to fabricate arose.

Question

Whether out of court consistent statements made after the alleged fabrication, or after the alleged improper influence or motive arose, are admissible under F.R.E. Rule 801(d)(1)(B)?

Answer

No, the majority found that the statements were inadmissible. Rule 801 of the F.R.E. defines prior consistent statements as nonhearsay only if they are offered to rebut a charge of recent fabrication or improper influence or motive. The Advisory Committee settled on treating the consistent statements once they met the requirements of the rule as nonhearsay and admissible as substantive evidence, not just to attack a witness’s credibility. Prior consistent statements are not admissible to counter all forms of impeachment, or to bolster the witness merely because she has been discredited.
Here, the question is whether the child’s statements to various persons rebutted the alleged link between her desire to be with her mother and her testimony, not whether they suggested that the child’s in-court testimony was true. This rule speaks of a party rebutting an alleged motive, not bolstering the veracity of the story told. Also, the consistent statement must have been made before the alleged influence, or motive to fabricate arose. The court reached this conclusion by relying on the Advisory Committee Notes to the F.R.E. Specifically, the majority did not think the drafters of the Rule intended to scuttle the whole premotive requirement and rationale without so much as a whisper of explanation.

Conclusion

The Court reversed and remanded the appellate court order because it found that Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B) only permitted the introduction of consistent, out-of-court statements to rebut a recent fabrication, improper influence, or motive charge, when those statements were made prior to the time the charges of recent fabrication, improper influence, or motive arose. Order admitting witness statements notwithstanding alleged motive to fabricate was reversed and remanded because court found that the rule only permitted introduction of consistent, out-of-court statements to rebut recent fabrication, improper influence, or motive charges, when those statements were made prior to charge of recent fabrication, improper influence, or motive.

  • Case Brief: 1995
  • Petitioner: Matthew Wayne Tome
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 513 US 150 (1995)
Argued: Oct 5, 1994
Decided: Jan 10, 1995