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Supreme Court Cites Sixth Amendment to Discount Testimony of Murdered Domestic Abuse Victim

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court ruling which allowed the previously recorded testimony of a murdered domestic abuse victim to be used as evidence in the trial of her alleged killer. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the case involved a California man who was found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend after she reported domestic violence to the police. Her report had been included as evidence in the murder trial, however the court ruled that this violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser.

The Washington Post reports that Justices Breyer, Stevens and Kennedy dissented. Justices Ginsberg and Souter joined the majority, but suggested a way that such evidence could be admitted. According to precedent, a defendant forfeits his/her right to confront an accuser when the defendant prevents the accuser from testifying through intimidation. Justices Ginsberg and Souter suggested that prosecutors could argue that a pattern of domestic abuse qualifies as intimidation, and therefore the testimony of the victim could be included.

Sources:

Christian Science Monitor 6/26/2008, Washington Post 6/26/2008, SCOTUS 6/25/2008

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