Officers found a shooting victim mortally wounded. The victim told the officers that he had been shot by the defendant. He died soon thereafter. At the defendant’s trial, the officers testified as to what the deceased shooting victim had said and the defendant was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Whether the trial court’s admission of these statements denied the defendant of his right to confront his accuser?
No. The circumstances of the interaction between the victim and the officers was to enable the government in an ongoing emergency, so the statements were not “testimonial statements.”
The Court noted that the “[C]onfrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In Crawford v. Washington, the Court “limited the Confrontation Clause’s reach to testimonial statements and held that in order for testimonial evidence to be admissible, the Sixth Amendment ‘demands what the common law required: unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination.’” The Court determined that if the “‘primary purpose’ of an interrogation is ‘to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency,’ (quoting Davis v. Washington)” the resulting statements are non-testimonial. In determining the “primary purpose,” reviewing courts are to look at “[t]he circumstances in which an encounter occurse.g., at or near the scene of the crime versus at a police station, during an ongoing emergency or afterwards…” Of course, “the existence of an ‘ongoing emergency’ at the time of an encounter between an individual and the police is among the most important circumstances informing the ‘primary purpose’ of an interrogation.
562 U.S. 344, 131 S. Ct. 1143 (2011)