June 27, 2008
Supreme Court Silences Murdered DV Victim
A Supreme Court ruling made on Wednesday may make it easier for murders from intimate partner violence to go unpunished.
In Giles v. California, victim Brenda Avie called the police three weeks prior to her death, reporting that her boyfriend Dwayne Giles choked her and threatened her life. A trial court convicted Giles for murder which the California Supreme Court upheld, but the Supreme Court justices threw out the conviction in a 6-3 ruling. And it was because Avie wasn’t available to be a witness:
The case revolved around the Sixth Amendment, which affords people the bedrock right to confront and cross-examine witnesses who give testimony against them. At issue is whether defendants forfeit their confrontation rights by doing harm to people whose statements are introduced in judicial proceedings.
So because she had made the prior report about his violent behavior and wasn’t available for Giles to cross-examine, the conviction was thrown out. The exception of the amendment is if the prosecutors can prove that the accused purposefully killed the victim to keep them from testifying.
And Justice Breyer argued just that in his dissent: “The defendant here knew that murdering his ex-girlfriend would keep her from testifying; and that knowledge is sufficient to show the intent that law ordinarily demands.”