The Confrontation Clause in child abuse cases

Monday, March 2, 2015, the United States Supreme Court will hear the case of Ohio v. Clark.  Clark was sentenced to 28 years for physically abusing his girlfriend’s three year old son.  The child was not permitted to testify.  Instead, daycare teachers and social workers  took the stand and testified as to what the child told them.  On appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed holding that admission of the  statements made by the child to teachers and social workers violated the confrontation clause.  The state appealed the Court’s ruling with regard to teachers to the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals.   Because teachers are required under Ohio law to report suspected child abuse, teachers are in the position of law enforcement in such cases and when teachers question children about suspected child abuse,  statements made to them are testimonial in nature.

The case presents two issues:

Does a daycare teacher’s obligation to report suspected child abuse make that teacher a law enforcement officer for purposes of the Confrontation Clause?

Do a child’s statements to a daycare teacher in response to the teachers’ concerns about potential child abuse qualify as testimonial statements subject to the Confrontation Clause?

The State of Ohio’s brief

Clark’s brief

A plethora of amicus briefs on both sides.  Scotusblog provides links to everything here.

And here’s the transcript of the argument.

Scotusblog’s analysis of the argument.

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