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

  • Crawford and his wife confronted Lee, claiming that Lee had assaulted the wife.
  • A scuffle ensued, and Lee got stabbed.
    • Mr. Crawford claimed he had acted in self-defense when he believed Lee had picked up a weapon. Lee denied doing anything that might make Mr. Crawford believe he was trying to attack him.
  • After the attack, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford were both given Miranda warnings and interviewed by the police.
    • Mr. Crawford said to the police that he was not sure if Mr. Lee had a weapon, but that Crawford believed at the time that Lee did.
    • Mrs. Crawford said separately that she had seen the attack and that Lee was not holding a weapon.
      • Thereby damaging Mr. Crawford’s self-defense claim.
  • Mr. Crawford was arrested and charged with assault.
  • At trial, Mrs. Crawford could not be compelled to testify against her husband because of spousal privilege.
  • The prosecution attempted to introduce a tape recording of Mrs. Crawford’s statement into evidence.
    • Mr. Crawford objected on the grounds that the out-of-court statement was hearsay.
    • The prosecution argued that the statement met the requirement of the residual exception to hearsay under FRE 807.
      • They further suggested that Mrs. Crawford could waive spousal privilege and testify if she really wanted to.
    • The Crawfords argued that being forced to waive spousal privilege would be a violation of the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the statement to be admitted.
  • The Trial Court found Crawford guilty of assault.  He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court overturned on the grounds that Mrs. Crawford’s statement had been improperly admitted.  The prosecution appealed.
    • The Appellate Court applied a 9 factor test to determine if the statement was reliable, and decided that it was not.
      • See Ohio v. Roberts (448 U.S. 56 (1980)), which says that if a witness is unavailable, that witnesses’ testimony can be admitted through a third person if it bears “adequate indicia of reliability” falling within a “firmly rooted hearsay exception” or has “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.”
  • The Washington Supreme Court reinstated the conviction.  Crawford appealed.
    • The Washington Supreme Court felt that the statement was reliable.
      • The Court noted that the Crawfords’ statements interlocked.
  • The US Supreme Court overturned and threw out the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the use of a spouse’s recorded statement made during police interrogation violated the defendant’s 6th Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses against the defendant where the spouse, because of the state law spousal privilege, did not testify at the trial.
    • The Court explicitly stated that any out-of-court statement that is “testimonial” in nature is not admissible, unless the declarant is unavailable to testify in court, and the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine him or her.
      • However, the opinion does not define “testimonial,” which has allowed courts across the country to determine that issue for themselves.
  • This case completely overturned Ohio v. Roberts.
    • “Where non-testimonial hearsay is at issue, it is wholly consistent with the Framers’ design to afford the States flexibility in their development of hearsay law – as does Ohio v. Roberts and as would an approach that exempted such statements from Confrontation Clause scrutiny altogether.  Where testimonial evidence is at issue, however, the 6th Amendment demands what the common law required: unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination.  We leave for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of “testimonial.”
    • The Court found that the Confrontation Clause, “applies to ‘witnesses’ against the accused, in other words, those who ‘bear testimony.’ ‘Testimony,’ in turn, is typically ‘a solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact.’”