Sunday, August 9, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Spring Term

While criminal cases did not dominate the Court's attention this past term, there were cases of note.  Johnson v. United States deals with the residual clause of the ACCA and is of interest solely to federal practitioners.  On the other hand, a progeny of Crawford will be front and center for everyone.  Professor Chemerinsky notes as follows:

In Ohio v. Clark (PDF), issued June 18, the court unanimously ruled that it did not violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment when statements of a 3-year-old boy were introduced against a criminal defendant without the boy testifying in court. In response to questions from his teacher, the boy had said that he had been beaten by his mother’s boyfriend, Darius Clark.
In Crawford v. Washington, decided in 2004, the court held that prosecutors cannot use testimonial statements from unavailable witnesses even if they are reliable. But the court did not attempt to define what is testimonial, and courts have struggled with the issue for more than a decade.
Ohio v. Clark offers important clarification of the meaning of “testimonial.” The court ruled that the boy’s statements to his teacher were not testimonial because they were not made with the primary purpose of creating evidence for prosecution. Justice Samuel A. Alito, writing for the court, declared: “Thus, under our precedents, a statement cannot fall within the Confrontation Clause unless its primary purpose was testimonial. ‘Where no such primary purpose exists, the admissibility of a statement is the concern of state and federal rules of evidence, not the Confrontation Clause.’”