Supreme Court Issues an Important Ruling in Child Abuse Cases

800px-Supreme_Court_US_2010 PDThe United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of allowing teachers to testify about a child’s report of abuse in a criminal trial. The Court held that, in certain circumstances, a teacher’s testimony about what a child said about the abuse is admissible, despite a defendant’s constitutional right to confront his accuser.

The Clark case before the Supreme Court involved a 3-year-old Ohio boy whose physical wounds were visible to his daycare teachers. When asked about the wounds, the young child told the teachers that his mother’s boyfriend caused the injuries.

Writing for the Court, Justice Samuel Alito said that this case was different than when a police officer takes a child’s statement and then presents it in court as the child’s testimony. That would violate a defendant’s right to confront his accuser. But here, the child spoke to teachers immediately after his wounds were discovered, in an emergency setting on school grounds — not in preparing courtroom testimony. The Court found that this made a difference.

The Court did not offer any guidance about whether statement abused children make to people other than teachers would be admissible in criminal trials.

While the decision was written in a narrow fashion applying to this particular case, it is a good step in the right direction to protect children from abuse.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

newspaper templates - theme rewards