Expanding the Confrontation Clause and Testimonial Hearsay Statements

AuthorFred E. Knowles,Darrell L. Ross
DOI10.1177/0734016811415027
Published date01 September 2011
Date01 September 2011
Subject MatterRecent Legal Developments
Recent Legal Developments
Expanding the Confrontation
Clause and Testimonial
Hearsay Statements:
Michigan v. Bryant
Darrell L. Ross
1
and Fred E. Knowles
1
Abstract
In its 2010 term, the U.S. Supreme Court elaborated on law enforcement procedures in their
decision of Michigan v. Bryant (2011) by analyzing the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause
regarding statements obtained by police officers during an initial investigation. The court
examined the statement of a mortally wounded victimwho,beforedying,identifiedtheshooter
as well as the location of the shooting. In a 6-2 decision the court held that a statement given
to police by a wounded crime victim identifying the person who shot him may be admitted as
evidence at the trial if the victim dies before trial and thus does not appear. Because the primary
purpose of the interrogation was to enable police to deal with an ongoing emergency, the
statements resulting from that interrogation were nontestimonial and could be admitted without
violating the Confrontation Clause.
Keywords
sixth amendment, confrontation clause, hearsay, nontestimonial statement, ongoing emergency,
witnesses
Introduction
The overarching goal of the Sixth Amendment is a fair trial and essential to this tenet is the right of
the accused to confront and cross-examine witnesses or victims. The Confrontation Clause provides
that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the wit-
nesses against him. With some exception, the witnesses must appear in Court and make the accusa-
tions face-to-face.
Out-of-court statements, made in affidavits or written testimony, are allowed frequently in civil
cases but rarely in criminal cases. This is because of the serious consequences that come with a crim-
inal conviction. One purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to prevent out-of-court statements from
1
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Darrell L Ross, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Valdosta State University, 1500 North
Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA 31698, USA
Email: dross@valdosta.edu
Criminal Justice Review
36(3) 375-386
ª2011 Georgia State University
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DOI: 10.1177/0734016811415027
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