Court Rules Husband Can’t Suppress Tears
Do tears constitute a form of communication? An appeals court in North Carolina recently ruled that tears do not constitute communication and are not protected by spousal privilege.
Despite attorney arguments otherwise, a court ruled that a husband’s tears were admissible evidence in a criminal trial. While in a vehicle together, the husband’s wife witnessed him crying while he read a newspaper article that included a composite sketch of a crime suspect. Years later the husband was charged with the crime described in the article. Police connected the husband to the crime through a DNA match, and suspicions relayed by the now ex-wife regarding the crying episode.
The defendant/husband, Lesiba Simon Matsoake, asked the court to prevent his former wife from testifying about the tears. His attorneys argued that the his tears constituted a communication with his wife and were therefore protected by spousal privilege. In Rhode Island many forms of spousal communication are privileged. In some instances spousal privilege covers both non-verbal communication as well as words. However, in this case the court determined the husband’s apparently spontaneous tears were not a form of communication with his wife.
Rhode Island courts have yet to encounter a similar kind of argument.
After his ex-wife’s statement and the DNA match, Matsoake fled to his native South Africa. He was later extradited and convicted.