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Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006)

Facts: Domestic violence allegations against petitioner Davis were the result of a turbulent relationship between him and his ex-girlfriend, Moultrie. The police recorded Moultrie’s 911 call, in which she said that Davis had physically attacked her. Following the domestic violence incident, Moultrie gave police a sworn statement, and Davis was later taken into custody on an unrelated offense. Moultrie’s statement and the recorded 911 call were both used as evidence against Davis during his trial.

Issue: The issue was whether or not the admission of the 911 call and Moultrie’s confession violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment? This clause protects a defendant’s ability to face and question witnesses who are testifying against him.

Rule: The introduction of testimonial hearsay evidence against a defendant is prohibited by the confrontation clause unless the witness is not accessible and the defendant has been afforded a chance to examine the witness beforehand, or if the statement is admissible under a well-established hearsay exemption.

Considering that Moultrie had testified during Davis’s trial and was under cross-examination, the court determined that she was not inaccessible. Nevertheless, the Court also determined that because Moultrie’s confession and the 911 call were made before any criminal proceedings had started, Davis was not given a chance to cross-examine him beforehand. The Court pointed out that if the state had adhered to correct criminal process and attempted to utilize the recorded 911 call and Moultrie’s statement at the preliminary hearing or through the hearsay exception that required a previous chance for cross-examination, then the state may have used them.

Holding: The United States Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the lower court by ruling that the inclusion of the 911 call and Moultrie’s confession violated the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause.

To conclude, Davis v. Washington determined that the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause forbids the admission of testimonial hearsay evidence against a defendant unless there is no witness and the defendant has a chance to examine the witness beforehand, or if the statement is taken charge by a well-established hearsay exception. This case stresses the need of following correct criminal process when it comes to the admission of evidence, as well as the ability to confront and cross-examine witnesses in criminal trials.

Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)

Facts: Michael Crawford, the petitioner, was accused of beating up a man who had supposedly tried to rape his wife. The prosecution used a taped statement made by Sylvia Crawford, the wife, who was not allowed to testify because of marital privilege, during the trial. During the interrogation, she gave the police a statement, which named her husband as a suspect in the crime. Under the hearsay exemption for declarations against interest, the trial court acknowledged the statement. Crawford was found guilty, and the court affirmed the verdict.

Issue: The main issue in this case is whether Michael Crawford’s Sixth Amendment right to face witnesses against him was violated by using Sylvia Crawford’s taped testimony to police during an interrogation rather than under oath.

Rule: A defendant has a right to face and question witnesses who are testifying against him under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. This privilege is a vital defense that guarantees the validity and correctness of the evidence used against a criminal defendant. A non-testifying witness’s statements are regarded as hearsay and are not admissible unless there is a known exemption to the rule.

Analysis: The Court used a two-part test in this instance to decide whether hearsay utterances were admissible. The statement must first fit inside a well-established hearsay rule exception. Second, the statement has to include specific assurances of reliability if it does not fit within a well-established exception. The Court also stressed the significance of the confrontation clause and pointed out that any exclusions need to be read very carefully.

The prosecution contended that Sylvia Crawford’s remarks qualified as statements against interest under the hearsay exemption. Nonetheless, the Court concluded that because this exemption had not been accepted by most states, it was not well-established. Additionally, the Court determined that because the statement was given in response to a police questioning and was not delivered under oath, it lacked specific assurances of reliability. Therefore, Crawford’s right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment was infringed by the use of the statement.

Holding: The Sixth Amendment right of Michael Crawford to face witnesses against him was deemed to have been violated by the Court’s acceptance of Sylvia Crawford’s taped statement. Crawford’s conviction was reversed by the court, and the matter was remanded for a fresh trial.

Additional Issues: In this case, two more concerns were handled. The first was whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause was broken by the statement’s admission. The Sixth Amendment was deemed to have been violated, hence the Court decided not to examine this matter. The second question concerned whether using the statement was a harmless mistake. Since the parties had not brought up the matter or the lower courts had not addressed it, the Court declined to take it up. Consequently, it had no influence over the case’s final resolution.

Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964)

Facts: Danny Escobedo was placed under arrest by the police after being charged with his brother-in-law’s murder. When the police tried to interview Escobedo the day following his arrest, he repeatedly demanded to speak with his lawyer, as he had done during the previous night’s interrogation. But the police turned down his plea and pressed on with their questioning, finally getting a confession. Escobedo’s confession was used against him during his trial when he was formally charged with the murder. He was found guilty and given the death penalty.

Issue: The main issue in this case is whether the police’s denial of Escobedo’s request to consult with his attorney during questioning constitutes a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Rule: The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which stipulates that, “the accused has the right to the assistance of counsel for his defense in all criminal cases, applies in this situation.” The “totality of the circumstances” test must also be used by the court to determine if the defendant’s rights under the Sixth Amendment have been violated. This test requires the court to take into account every aspect of the interrogation.

Analysis: Escobedo’s appeal was first turned down by the Illinois Supreme Court, which reasoned that there was no proof of pressure during the interview and that he had freely confessed. But the US Supreme Court overturned this ruling, stating that Escobedo’s right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment “attaches” whenever he is the subject of a criminal inquiry and that it was an infringement on his rights to deny him the opportunity to consult with his attorney. The court considered the “totality of the circumstances” and concluded that Escobedo was denied his right to counsel because of the hostile and coercive the environment created by the police.

Holding: Escobedo’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated when his confession was admitted into evidence during his trial and that any confession made when a defendant was not allowed to have legal representation must be rejected according to the US Supreme Court ruling. Since Escobedo’s rights were violated during the interview, the Court also awarded him a fresh trial.

Works Cited







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