U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court Holds Convicted Killer Can Bar Victim’s Prior Statements to Cop
In another ruling strengthening the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a defendant’s murder conviction because his victim’s prior statements to police were improperly admitted as evidence at trial.
The 6-3 ruling found that murder defendants have a right to confront an accuser even if they are responsible for the accuser’s absence from the trial, the Associated Press reports.
Defendant Dwayne Giles had claimed at trial that he shot his girlfriend in self-defense. A police officer had testified the girlfriend told him before her murder that Giles had beaten and threatened her.
Giles claimed the officer’s statements were unconstitutionally used against him under the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision, Crawford v. Washington. The 2004 decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, barred admission of testimonial evidence unless the person who made the statement can be cross-examined. The decision led to a series of rulings upholding the rights of criminal defendants.
Scalia also wrote today’s ruling (PDF), Giles v. California. He noted the common law rule allowing admission of statements by a witness who was kept away from trial by actions of the defendant. He said the rule applied at common law only when the defendant acted with the goal of keeping the witness from testifying. He said the rule was not applied in murder cases to introduce statements of the victims.
Scalia also took issue with a suggestion by the dissent that his ruling will have a detrimental impact in domestic abuse cases.
“The dissent closes by pointing out that a forfeiture rule which ignores Crawford would be particularly helpful to women in abusive relationships—or at least particularly helpful in punishing their abusers,” Scalia writes. “We are puzzled by the dissent’s decision to devote its peroration to domestic abuse cases. Is the suggestion that we should have one confrontation clause (the one the Framers adopted and Crawford described) for all other crimes, but a special, improvised, confrontation clause for those crimes that are frequently directed against women?” Source