On June 18th the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Clark, 576 U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2173 (2015), holding that a child abuse victim’s statements to his preschool teachers were non-testimonial under the Crawford confrontation clause analysis. As the first Crawford case addressing statements by a child victim, Clark is an important decision for child abuse prosecutions. Also, because it’s the Court’s first case assessing the testimonial nature of statements made to persons other than the police or their agents, it has broader significance for the Crawford analysis.
In early October the Supreme Court granted certiorari in an Ohio case, State v. Clark, 999 N.E.2d 592 (Ohio 2013), cert. granted __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 43 (2014), that will require it to decide two questions. First, whether a person’s obligation to report suspected child abuse makes the person an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the confrontation clause. And second, whether a child’s out-of-court statements to a teacher in response to the teacher’s concerns about potential child abuse qualify as “testimonial” statements. The case is important for a number of reasons. One is that like Ohio, North Carolina has a mandatory child abuse reporting statute. G.S. 7B-301. North Carolina’s statute is incredibly broad—it applies to everyone, not just teachers and doctors but also to family members, neighbors, and friends. Id. (“[a]ny person or institution”). Thus, an answer to the first question could have significant impact in North Carolina. The case also is important because Crawford has raised difficult questions in child abuse prosecutions about the testimonial nature of children’s statements to a host of people, including teachers, nurses, doctors, and social workers. Clark is the Court’s first Crawford case involving child abuse and many hope that its decision will provide answers to those questions.
Mumford & Sons has a song called Hopeless Wanderer. When it comes to substitute analysts and the confrontation clause, that song title sums me up, and maybe you as well. Anyone who practices criminal law knows that Confrontation Clause issues have been a big deal ever since the United States Supreme Court handed down its … Read more
If you’re on my listserv, you know that the NC Supreme Court recently issued several confrontation clause decisions, all dealing with substitute analysts (if you’re not on my listserv, you can sign up here for my case summaries). I’ve previously written (here) about Williams v. Illinois, the US Supreme Court’s most recent confrontation decision on … Read more
Rule 45. This rule surprised me. Before I learned about it, I assumed that when a party sought to introduce hospital medical records at trial, a records custodian appeared in court to testify that the records met the requirements for the business records hearsay exception. Turns out, however, that because of this rule, custodians of … Read more
My recent paper (here) on the use of remote testimony in criminal cases involving forensic analysts was written in part because of the flood of interest in legislative solutions to Melendez-Diaz. That case held that forensic reports are testimonial and subject to the new Crawford confrontation clause analysis. One slam dunk solution to the Melendez-Diaz … Read more
I recently published a lengthy paper here examining the constitutionality of remote testimony in criminal trials under Crawford and the confrontation clause. In that paper I noted that the North Carolina Court of Appeals has held that Maryland v. Craig procedures for child victims survive Crawford. Maryland v. Craig was a pre-Crawford United States Supreme … Read more
I’ve previously discussed the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception to the confrontation clause in this blog (here) and in numerous other publications (for example, here). In a nutshell, the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception extinguishes confrontation claims on the equitable grounds that a person should not be able to benefit from his or her wrongdoing. Forfeiture by … Read more
In a paper here I analyze Williams v. Illinois, the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest confrontation decision on substitute analyst testimony. Because Williams was a fractured opinion in which no rationale garnered five votes, it didn’t answer a lot of questions. Three companion cases recently decided by the California Supreme Court show how one court is … Read more
In yesterday’s post I set out the basics of the Bruton rule. Put simply, Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), held that a defendant’s confrontation clause rights are violated when a non-testifying codefendant’s confession naming the defendant as a participant in the crime is introduced at their joint trial, even if the jury … Read more