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Statements attributing fault or establishing a perpetrator's identity are typically inadmissible under the medical diagnosis and treatment exception to the hearsay rule, but there is an exception to the general rule in cases involving child abuse, sexual assault, and/or domestic violence. Because of the unique nature of such cases, identifying the attacker serves a primarily medical, not testimonial, purpose because a physician generally must know who the abuser was in order to render proper treatment because the physician's treatment will necessarily differ when the abuser is a member of the victim's family or household.
Dee Ward was charged with battering J.M., his girlfriend. During treatment for her injuries, J.M. told a paramedic and a forensic nurse that Ward was her attacker. When J.M. failed to appear for depositions or to testify at trial, the State relied on her statements to the paramedic and the forensic nurse to implicate Ward, over Ward's objection that the evidence was "testimonial hearsay" that violated his federal and State confrontation rights.
Were J.M.’s statements to the paramedic and the forensic nurse "testimonial hearsay"?
The court held that the statements were non-testimonial. Asking J.M. who attacked her was not aimed at obtaining a substitute for trial testimony—rather, it was a vital part of providing appropriate medical and psychological treatment and service referrals, as the applicable standard of care requires. Accordingly, J.M.'s hearsay statements were properly admitted into evidence. The court affirmed Ward's convictions for C-felony battery and A-misdemeanor domestic battery.