In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Crawford v. Washington that testimonial hearsay is inadmissible at trial unless the declarant is available for cross-examination. Courts have subsequently struggled to define “testimonial hearsay,” but have often vaguely defined it as an out-of-court statement made for the primary purpose of establishing past events for use in future prosecution. Although Crawford intended to protect a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation, in doing so, it overlooked the holding’s detrimental effects on two particular types of victims: domestic violence and rape victims. Under Crawford, domestic violence and rape victims’ out-of-court statements are likely to be considered testimonial because the sensitive and personal nature of these incidents often results in substantial deliberation prior to any declaration, as opposed to the impromptu declarations made during so-called ongoing emergencies. In turn, these statements are likely viewed as made for future prosecution. Moreover, domestic violence and rape victims have especially compelling and uniquely fragile psychological reasons to be unavailable for cross-examination, including being at risk at for re-traumatization. Yet, despite these reasons, Crawford still places pressure on these victims to be cross-examined in front of their perpetrators because testimonial hearsay evidence is often determinative in these types of trials, and thus an unavailable victim would lead to an increased likelihood of the perpetrator escaping conviction. This sensitivity and consequential unreliability surrounding the admissibility of testimonial hearsay upon which domestic violence and rape cases rely also disincentives prosecutors from pursuing these cases, further exacerbating the unlikelihood of conviction. To alleviate the detrimental impacts that Crawford has on both victims and trials, this Article suggests that Crawford’s essential terminology must be narrowly defined, exceptions to the ruling must be expanded upon, and victims must be adequately safeguarded.
Civil Rights and Discrimination
Supreme Court of the United States
- Journal title
Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice
- Date submitted
5 September 2022