California v. Green

399 U.S. 149, 90 S. Ct. 1930 (1970)



While it may readily be conceded that hearsay rules and the Confrontation Clause are generally designed to protect similar values, it is quite a different thing to suggest that the overlap is complete and that the Confrontation Clause is nothing more or less than a codification of the rules of hearsay and their exceptions as they existed historically at common law. United States Supreme Court decisions have never established such a congruence; indeed, the Court has more than once found a violation of confrontation values even though the statements in issue are admitted under an arguably recognized hearsay exception. The converse is equally true: merely because evidence is admitted in violation of a long-established hearsay rule does not lead to the automatic conclusion that confrontation rights have been denied.


In a California state court, sitting without a jury, the accused was tried for furnishing marijuana to a minor. In speaking to a police officer and in testifying at the accused's preliminary hearing, a minor had stated that the accused was his supplier of marijuana, but at the trial, the minor testified that he had taken LSD at the time of the alleged crime and was unable to remember how he had obtained the marijuana. The testimony at the preliminary hearing had been given under oath and subject to cross- examination. Pursuant to a California statute providing that evidence of a prior statement made by a witness was not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if the statement was inconsistent with his testimony at the trial, the prosecution's reading of excerpts from the minor's preliminary-hearing testimony was admitted in evidence for the truth of the matter asserted therein, and a police officer's testimony that the minor had told him that the accused had personally delivered the marijuana was likewise admitted in evidence. The accused was convicted, but the California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the accused's constitutional right of confrontation was violated through the use of the minor's prior statements for the truth of the matter asserted.


Did the use of the witness' prior inconsistent statements deny the accused of the right of confrontation even though the statements were subject to cross-examination at the preliminary hearing?




The Court vacated and remanded the case. In an opinion by White, J., it was held, expressing the views of six members of the court, that (1) the admission in evidence of the minor's preliminary-hearing testimony did not violate the accused's constitutional right of confrontation, and (2) the confrontation-clause issue relating to the police officer's testimony as to the minor's statements was not ripe for decision.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.