Teacher Testimony of Student’s Abuse Allowed

Ohio v. Clark, Dkt. No. 13-1352 (U.S. June 18, 2015).

Facts: This case involved the criminal conviction of an Ohio man for child abuse, based in part on a preschool teacher’s testimony concerning statements the child made to her.  The problem is that the child did not testify and so the criminal defendant objected that the teacher’s testimony violated the Sixth Amendment.  The man persuaded an appellate court to reverse his conviction on that basis.

Holding:  In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a court may consider a teacher’s testimony regarding a minor student’s out-of-court statements about suspected child abuse without violating the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.  The Sixth Amendment prohibits “testimonial” statements by a nontestifying witness, unless the witness is unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity to question the witness.  To be excluded as a “testimonial” statement, the statement must be given with the “primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony.”  In addition, statements given to those who are not principally charged with uncovering and prosecuting criminal behavior, such as the teacher here, are significantly less likely to be testimonial that those given to law enforcement personnel.  The Court reversed the appellate court’s decision that the teacher’s testimony regarding the child’s statements should have been excluded.

ps_sqaure This case gives criminal prosecutors a green light to present teacher testimony regarding student statements about abuse without having to call the student to testify.


Read next article – Hot off the press #2

Back to the list of articles in this issue.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top