EVIDENCE - EXCULPATORY STATEMENT
OF FACT OF THE DEFENDANT
An exculpatory statement is defined as a statement by the defendant that tends to clear a defendant from alleged guilt, or a statement that tends to justify or excuse his/her actions or presence.
Where the State introduces in connection with a confession or admission of a defendant an exculpatory statement which, if true, would entitle him/her to an acquittal, he/she must be acquitted unless such exculpatory statement has been disproved or shown to be false by other evidence in the case. The falsity of an exculpatory statement may be shown by circumstantial as well as by direct evidence.
A statement is exculpatory within the meaning of this instruction only if it concerns a tangible, affirmative, factual matter capable of specific disproof. A statement is not exculpatory within the meaning of this instruction if it merely restates the defendant's contention of innocence.
In Knott v. State, 432 P.2d 128 (Okl. Cr. 1967), the court affirmed the defendant's manslaughter conviction over his assertion that an instruction similar to the above should have been given. The defendant's statement contained the sentence, "I killed him; it was an accident," which defendant alleged was exculpatory. The court conceded the appropriateness of such an instruction in certain narrow circumstances that were not present in Knott.
Specifically, the court held that the defendant's designation of the homicidal incident as "an accident" was not sufficiently factual in nature to be encompassed by the exculpatory-statement rule. See also Stiles v. State, 829 P.2d 984, 991 (Okl. Cr. 1992) (instruction not warranted because defendant's admissions were not exculpatory).
Moreover, in Knott, the defendant took the stand and testified with respect to a defense of self-defense, which the court deemed an appropriate opportunity to bring the subject of the allegedly exculpatory statement to the attention of the jury. Thus, the rule requiring an exculpatory-statement instruction has application only in cases where the defendant does not take the stand. See Brecheen v. State, 732 P.2d 889, 897 (Okl. Cr. 1987) (instruction not warranted because defendant testified at trial and denied making the exculpatory statements).
The exculpatory-statement rule is referred to as the law in Oklahoma in Dean v. State, 381 P.2d 178 (Okl. Cr. 1963) (statement of the defendant that he witnessed a third party running from a burglarized store, then entered and helped himself to merchandise not exculpatory, but constitutes an admission of guilt). See also Mitchell v. State, 408 P.2d 566 (Okl. Cr. 1965). The Commission has found no cases where refusal to give the exculpatory-statement instruction was held to be erroneous.