Confrontation: RANKINS V. COMMONWEALTH (SC 11/1/2007)

CRIMINAL:  Right to Confrontation
DATE RENDERED:  1`/1/2007

Hearsay statements of an assault victim who was not available to testify in domestic assault prosecution in Jefferson District Court should have been excluded pursuant to Crawford v. Washington, 541 U .S. 36, 124 S. Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). SC held it was not necessary to decide whether or not the statements qualified as "excited utterances", as the decision is controlled by Crawford v. Washington, 541 U .S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed. 2d 177 (2004) and its progeny, Davis v. Washington, – U .S. -, 126 S. Ct. 2266, 165 L. Ed. 2d 224 (2006), and Hammon v. Indiana, decided with Davis.

Crawford held that the Sixth Amendment prohibits the admission of the testimonial statement of a declarant who does not appear at trial, unless the declarant is unavailable to testify and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. Crawford referred to "testimonial" statements, because it is statements of a testimonial character, as opposed to other hearsay, which cause the declarant to be a witness against the accused for purposes of the Confrontation Clause.

Here, the police officer responded to a call, and discovered the prosecuting witness. She proceeded to tell the officer "what happened," recounting the assault by Rankin . Under Davis and Crawford, the witness’s statements are testimonial. The Sixth Amendment prescribes that the only method for testing their reliability is through cross-examination. Courts cannot consider whether they fit into the excited utterance, or any other hearsay exception. To do so "would perpetuate . . . what the Sixth Amendment condemns." Crawford, 541 U .S. at 67, 124 S. Ct. at 1373, 158 L. Ed. 2d at 202.

Digested by Scott C. Byrd
Olgin and Byrd

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