The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of man in the rape and murder of a Fort Dodge woman. Firefighters found Holly Michael tied up in the basement of her burning home in January of 2006.
Michael was badly burned, but was able to tell emergency workers and later a doctor that Sessions Harper had raped her, tied her up, and then set her house on fire. Michael later died at the hospital. Harper was convicted of first-degree murder in Michael’s death and sentenced to life in prison.
Harper appealed the conviction saying the statements made by Michael were inadmissible because they were hearsay, and violated his right to confront his accuser. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Michael’s statements to hospital staff were admissible in court under a couple of exceptions.
One exception is for a person who makes a statement under stress because such statements are less likely to involved deception. And another is an exception for a person who believes they are dying because they show the circumstances of why a person has died. The High Court says under the exceptions, Harper’s right to confront his accuser does not apply.