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In his 34-year career, durable boxer Roberto Duran won 104 of his 120 matches, 69 by a knockout. His latest victory, however, took place not in the ring, but in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he successfully defended a decade-long effort to regain five championship belts that, he maintained, were stolen by his brother-in-law then conveyed to a Miami businessman who tried to sell them to FBI agents for $200,000. This victory was won not with Duran’s legendary “hands of stone,” but by bobbing and weaving through the federal hearsay rules. On Sept. 19, the 11th Circuit held that, while the trial court misapplied one aspect of the rule, a different exception applied to the same statement, preserving a Miami jury’s decision to return the belts to Duran. U.S. v. Duran Samaniego, No. 02-14977. According to Duran, the brother-in-law, Bolivar Iglesias, stole the belts from Duran’s Panama home in 1993. Duran persuaded the FBI to conduct a sting and it recovered the belts from Miami businessman Luis Gonzalez Baez when he tried to sell them. Baez denied the belts were stolen, and the government filed an interpleader action to determine whether Duran or Baez was the rightful owner. The jury found for the fighter after the trial judge admitted testimony from him and others asserting that Iglesias had apologized for the theft. Baez then appealed, arguing that the testimony was inadmissible hearsay. The trial judge had held that Iglesias’ alleged apology fell under Fed. R. Evid. 803(3)’s hearsay exception for out-of-court statements describing an existing state of mind or emotion. The 11th Circuit held, however, that the trial court got it wrong, ruling that the testimony was offered not to show Iglesias’ alleged emotion-that he was remorseful-but for the truth of the matter asserted-that he had stolen the belts. Nevertheless, the panel affirmed, explaining that because Duran had established that his brother-in-law, who remained in Panama and beyond the reach of a subpoena, was unavailable to testify, the out-of-court statement was admissible under Rule 804(b)(3) as a statement against interest. The court said, “We will not hold that the district court abused its discretion where it reached the correct result even if it did so for the wrong reason.” Score it a technical knockout.

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