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White v. Illinois

    Brief Fact Summary. Randall D. White (Petitioner) was charged with and convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child. At Petitioner’s trial, the lower court allowed the testimony of various parties, including the child’s mother, babysitter, doctor, and nurse, as well as a police officer, all under exceptions to the hearsay rule. Petitioner challenges, on certiorari, the admission of that evidence here.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment does not require that the prosecution introduce the declarant at trial, nor that the declarant be available, in order for testimony to be admissible under the hearsay exceptions for spontaneous statements or statements made in the course of medical examinations.

    Facts. Just past midnight, Tom DeVore (DeVore) heard 4-year-old S.G. (Victim) scream; DeVore was Victim’s babysitter, and went to Victim’s room after hearing the scream.
    At trial, DeVore testified that when he arrived at Victim’s room, he saw Petitioner, who DeVore knew to be a friend of Victim’s mother, leaving Victim’s room.
    DeVore also testified that, when he asked Victim what had happened, Victim indicated that Petitioner had, “choked her,” and, “touched her in the wrong places,” which Victim then indicated was her vaginal area.
    Victim’s mother Tammy Grigsby (Grigsby) also testified at trial, and stated that Victim had bruises and red marks on her that night and that Victim told her Petitioner had, “put his mouth on her front part.”
    Officer Terry Lewis (Lewis) was called to the house the night of the events, and also testified at trial; Lewis testified to the jury that Victim’s statements to him matched what Grigsby and DeVore had testified to.
    Victim was taken to the hospital that night, and examined there; two medical examiners, one nurse and one doctor, also testified at trial, indicating that Victim gave an account that was, “essentially identical to the one she had given DeVore, Grigsby, and Lewis.”

    Issues.
    Is it necessary that a declarant be unavailable in order for statements of the declarant to be admissible under the hearsay exceptions for spontaneous declarations (under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(2)) and/or for statements made in the course of obtaining medical treatment (under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(4))?

    Is it necessary that a party seeking to introduce a declarant’s statements produce the declarant at trial in order for the declarant’s statements to be admissible under the hearsay exceptions for spontaneous declarations (under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(2)) and/or for statements made in the course of obtaining medical treatment (under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(4))?

    Held. Affirmed.
    No; the Confrontation Clause does not require that the declarant be unavailable.

    No; the Confrontation Clause does not require that the declarant be produced at trial by the party seeking to introduce the declarant’s statements.

    Concurrence. Justices Thomas (writing) and Scalia concur in part and concur in the judgment. The concurring opinion points out that the 6th Amendment’s Confrontation Clause, “provides simply that ‘in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him . . . .’” The concurring opinion goes on, “[i]t is plain that the critical phrase within the Clause for purposes of this case is ‘witnesses against him.’” Therefore, the concurrence argues, attempting to, “draw a line between statements made in contemplation of legal proceedings and those not so made would entangle the courts in a multitude of difficulties,” and concludes that the Court should therefore, “reconsider how the phrase ‘witness against’ in the Confrontation Clause pertains to the admission of hearsay.”

    Discussion. The Court discusses the basis for the Confrontation Clause, and the reasoning behind the applicable precedent in making its decision. Specifically, the Court argues that requiring that a declarant be available or that a party seeking to introduce a declarant’s statements produce the declarant would be counter-intuitive. The Court writes, “given a declarant’s likely change in status by the time the trial occurs, simply calling the declarant in the hope of having him repeat his prior out-of-court statements is a poor substitute for the full evidentiary significance that flows from statements made when the conspiracy is operating in full force.” The Court goes on, “there is little benefit, if any, to be accomplished by imposing an ‘unavailability rule.’ . . . [s]uch a rule will not work to bar absolutely the introduction of the out-of-court statements . . . [nor would it be] likely to produce much testimony that adds meaningfully to the trial’s truth-determining process.”
    Such a rule would, the Court argues, have a negative impact on the judicial process, as, “[t]he prosecution would be required to repeatedly locate and keep continuously available each declarant, even when neither the prosecution nor the defense has any interest in calling the witness to the stand.”


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