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Crawford v Washington

Facts: Petitioner Michael Crawford stabbed a man who allegedly tried to rape his
wife, Sylvia. He and his wife was then arrested and interrogated. The statement of
Sylvia cast doubt on her husbands assertion of self-defense. At his trial, the State
played for the jury Sylvias tape-recorded statement to the police describing the
stabbing, even though he had no opportunity for cross-examination. He objected as it
would violate his Sixth Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses against
him. Using Ohio v Roberts that right does not bar admission of an unavailable
witnesss statement against a criminal defendant if the statement bears adequate
indicia of reliability, a test met when the evidence either falls within a firmly
rooted hearsay exception or bears particularized guarantees of trustworthiness. The
State Supreme Court upheld the conviction, deeming the statement reliable because it
was nearly identical to with petitioners own statement to the police, in that both were
ambiguous as to whether the victim had drawn a weapon before petitioner assaulted

Issue: whether the use of Sylvias statement violated the Confrontation Clause.

Ruling: Yes. First, the principal evil at which the Confrontation Clause was directed
was the civil-law mode of criminal procedure, and particularly its use of ex
parte examinations as evidence against the accused.
Accordingly, we once again reject the view that the Confrontation Clause applies of
its own force only to in-court testimony, and that its application to out-of-court
statements introduced at trial depends upon the law of Evidence for the time being.

The historical record also supports a second proposition: that the Framers would not
have allowed admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at
trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior
opportunity for cross-examination. The text of the Sixth Amendment does not suggest
any open-ended exceptions from the confrontation requirement to be developed by the
courts. Rather, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him, is most
naturally read as a reference to the right of confrontation at common law, admitting
only those exceptions established at the time of the founding.

Where testimonial statements are involved, we do not think the Framers meant to
leave the Sixth Amendments protection to the vagaries of the rules of evidence,
much less to amorphous notions of reliability.Admitting statements deemed reliable
by a judge is fundamentally at odds with the right of confrontation. To be sure, the
Clauses ultimate goal is to ensure reliability of evidence, but it is a procedural rather
than a substantive guarantee. It commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that
reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the crucible of cross-
examination. The Clause thus reflects a judgment, not only about the desirability of
reliable evidence (a point on which there could be little dissent), but about how
reliability can best be determined.