Marianne Wesson, The Hillmon Case, the MacGuffin, and the Supreme Court, Litigation, Fall 2005, at 30, available at http://scholar.law.colorado.edu/articles/474/.
The case of Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Hillmon is one of the most influential decisions in the law of evidence. Decided by the Supreme Court in 1892, it invented an exception to the hearsay rule for statements encompassing the intentions of the declarant. But this exception seems not to rest on any plausible theory of the categorical reliability of such statements. This article suggests that the case turned instead on the Court's understanding of the facts of the underlying dispute about the identity of a corpse. The author's investigations into newspaper archives and the original case documents point to a different understanding, and proposes that this important rule of evidence may have grown out of an historical mistake.
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