State v. Supanchick

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 02-13-2014
  • Case #: S060017
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kistler, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Walters, J.; Linder, J.; Brewer, J.; and Baldwin, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

The principle of forfeiture by wrongdoing ensures that a defendant cannot manipulate the availability of witnesses. A defendant gives up his right to confront evidence from a witness when defendant has made that witness unavailable by wrongdoing.

Defendant appealed his conviction of aggravated murder. Defendant's wife filed for a restraining order based on Defendant verbally and physically abusing her. Defendant went to his wife's house, tied her up and tried to convince her to give up custody of their daughter, leave the state, and recant allegations of the restraining order. When the police arrived, Defendant shot his wife. At trial, the State offered statements made by Wife to undercut Defendant's arguments. Defendant claimed that, under OEC 804(3)(g), his deceased wife's hearsay statements were inadmissible. Alternatively, Defendant argued that the statements violated his rights under the state and federal constitutions. The trial court allowed the statements and Defendant was convicted. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Defendant appealed. On appeal the State argued that the principle of forfeiture by wrongdoing made Wife's statements admissible. Defendant argued that the principle did not apply because he did not make his wife unavailable for the purpose of excluding her testimony at trial. Further, Defendant argued that the statement must have an independent guarantee of reliability. The Court rejected those arguments, finding no basis in the text, context, or history of the rule. The Court also denied Defendant's Constitutional arguments. Defendant argued that forfeiture by wrongdoing is an equitable principle that must retain common-law principles. The State argued that forfeiture through wrongdoing means that defendants may relinquish constitutional rights through misconduct. The Court agreed that the forfeiture through wrongdoing doctrine served as a bar to asserting a common-law confrontation right. However, Defendant further argued that even though the right is given up, that Defendant still retains a right to reliability of evidence. The Court rejected that argument based on the history and text of the Constitution. The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.

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