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Crawford v. Washington

Supreme Court of the United States

November 10, 2003, Argued ; March 8, 2004, Decided

No. 02-9410

Opinion

 [*38]  [**1356]   Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Michael Crawford stabbed a man who allegedly tried to rape his wife, Sylvia. At his trial, the State played for [**1357]  the jury Sylvia's tape-recorded statement to the police describing the stabbing, even though he had no opportunity for cross-examination. The Washington Supreme Court upheld petitioner's conviction after determining that Sylvia's statement was reliable. The question presented is whether this procedure complied with the Sixth Amendment's guarantee that, "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him."

On August 5, 1999, Kenneth Lee was stabbed at his apartment. Police arrested petitioner later that night. After giving petitioner and his wife Miranda warnings, detectives [****6]  interrogated each of them twice. Petitioner eventually confessed that he and Sylvia had gone in search of Lee  [***185]  because he was upset over an earlier incident in which Lee had tried to rape her. The two had found Lee at his apartment, and a fight ensued in which Lee was stabbed in the torso and petitioner's hand was cut.

Petitioner gave the following account of the fight:

"Q. Okay. Did you ever see anything in [Lee's] hands?

"A. I think so, but I'm not positive.

"Q. Okay, when you think so, what do you mean by that?

"A. I coulda swore I seen him goin' for somethin' before, right before everything happened. He was like  [*39]  reachin', fiddlin' around down here and stuff . . . and I just . . . I don't know, I think, this is just a possibility, but I think, I think that he pulled somethin' out and I grabbed for it and that's how I got cut . . . but I'm not positive. I, I, my mind goes blank when things like this happen. I mean, I just, I remember things wrong, I remember things that just doesn't, don't make sense to me later." App. 155 (punctuation added).

Sylvia generally corroborated petitioner's story about the events leading up to the fight, but her account of the fight itself was [****7]  arguably different--particularly with respect to whether Lee had drawn a weapon before petitioner assaulted him:

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541 U.S. 36 *; 124 S. Ct. 1354 **; 158 L. Ed. 2d 177 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 1838 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4229; 63 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 1077; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 181

MICHAEL D. CRAWFORD, Petitioner v. WASHINGTON

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON.

State v. Crawford, 147 Wn.2d 424, 54 P.3d 656, 2002 Wash. LEXIS 598 (2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

reliability, cross-examination, cases, testimonial statement, testimonial, witnesses, courts, confrontation, hearsay, Sixth Amendment, examinations, confessions, declarant, unsworn, common law, hearsay exception, prior opportunity, right to confront, ex parte, depositions, admit, stabbed, criminal trial, unavailable, sworn, justice of the peace, interlocking, out-of-court, authorities, common-law

Criminal Law & Procedure, Defenses, General Overview, Evidence, Marital Privileges, Confidential Communications, Criminal Proceedings, Hearsay, Unavailability, Privileges, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Confrontation, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Witnesses, Unavailability, Examination of Witnesses, Cross-Examination, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Interrogation, Miranda Rights, Preliminary Proceedings, Preliminary Hearings, Evidence