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Man's 'Dr. Phil' Confession Leads to Arrest

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By Betty Wang, JD on July 05, 2013 12:48 PM

An Oklahoma man's "Dr. Phil" confession has led to his arrest. Prosecutors have filed charges against Timothy Dean Cruz, 25, for allegedly beating his girlfriend after he confessed on the popular TV talk show.

On an episode of "Dr. Phil" that aired in May, titled "Broken Bones, Broken Hearts, Broken Engagements," Cruz admitted to violent acts including beating and choking his girlfriend.

After police interviewed Cruz's girlfriend, she allegedly described almost a dozen different instances in which Cruz had inflicted acts of violence on her.

Cruz and his girlfriend have a child together. The young father now faces seven felony counts of assault, battery, domestic abuse, and domestic abuse by strangulation.

But can Cruz's "Dr. Phil" confession really be used against him in court?

Questions About Coercion

Confessions -- especially those given to police during interrogations -- are often challenged by criminal defendants.

Under the Fifth Amendment, your confession can be thrown out if it was a result of coercion or unlawful police tactics. But for Cruz, this wouldn't be relevant -- unless he can prove that Dr. Phil was a police or government agent. Even if he were, it seems Cruz still volunteered this information on national television -- unless he can prove there was some off-camera arm-twisting that didn't make it into the show.

What About Hearsay?

Cruz's on-air confession will undoubtedly be used in court by prosecutors. But what about potential problems with hearsay?

Hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement that's introduced at trial and asserted as the truth. Hearsay is generally not allowed, especially when there's no way to verify if the statement was true -- for example, no chance to question the person who made the statement.

But rules set by state and federal courts allow for many exceptions to hearsay. For Cruz, his statement would likely be admissible because it can arguably be deemed a party admission. Party admissions are statements made by a person against his own interest, which is exactly what Cruz appeared to do on the show.

If convicted, Timothy Dean Cruz could face a lengthy prison sentence for the alleged abuse dating back to March 2011. Oklahoma has a three-year statute of limitations for domestic violence felonies.

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