Ohio v. Roberts
448 U.S. 56 (1980)

  • Roberts was charged with forging a check in Isaac’s name.
  • At a preliminary hearing, Roberts called Isaac’s daughter as a witness and blamed her for giving the check to Roberts.
    • The daughter denied the allegation, and after testifying she disappeared and did not respond to subpoenas to testify.
  • At trial, Roberts argued that the daughter had given him the check.
  • The prosecution attempted to introduce the preliminary hearing testimony of the daughter denying that she gave Roberts the check.
    • Roberts argued that the testimony could not be used because it was hearsay.
    • The prosecution argued that the testimony was not hearsay because under Ohio law, testimony from the preliminary examination of a witness was admissible if the witness was not available at trial.
    • Roberts argued that since he did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness at the trial, the testimony violated the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment.
  • The Trial Judge found that the testimony was admissible.
  • The Trial Court convicted Roberts of forgery.  He appealed on the grounds that the daughter’s testimony had been improperly admitted.
  • The Ohio Supreme Court reversed.  The prosecution appealed.
    • The Ohio Supreme Court found that Roberts had not had sufficient opportunity to cross-examine the witness, and therefore the testimony was not admissible.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found that the preliminary testimony could be used.
    • The US Supreme Court found that:
      • The daughter was under oath and the environment was trial-like when she testified at the preliminary hearing.
      • Roberts had the opportunity to examine the daughter and he used this opportunity.
    • Therefore, the statements are considered reliability and even though the statement doesn’t fit under any of the exceptions to hearsay, it is still admissible under the FRE 807 residual exception.
  • Basically, the Court found that under the Confrontation Clause, the prosecution must demonstrate:
    • Unavailability of the declarant and,
    • That the hearsay has “indicia of reliability” sufficient to justify dispensing with confrontation by showing:
      • That the testimony fell within a “firmly rooted hearsay exception” or that,
      • The statement was accompanied by “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.”