Ohio v. Clark

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: October 2, 2014
  • Case #: 13-1352
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 999 N.E.2d 592 (Ohio 2013)
  • Full Text Opinion

(1) Whether individuals acting under mandatory reporting statutes become law enforcement agents under the Confrontation Clause; and (2) whether non-emergency hearsay statements from minor children to such individuals are testimonial statements under the Confrontation Clause.

Respondent was charged and convicted on child abuse charges. A state appeals court reversed, holding that testimony of teachers’ and other non-police (“teachers”) relaying the child’s non-emergency statements violated the Confrontation Clause; the child’s statements primarily accomplished the purpose of identifying the source of past injuries for possible police investigation and prosecution when the teachers acted in compliance with their statutory mandate to report their suspicion of child abuse to police. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari in part because of splits among the states on the issue, which affects mandatory reporting laws in every state.

Petitioners argue that the Confrontation Clause disqualifies testimony based on statements deemed testimonial – in this instance, statements made to law enforcement agents during “police interrogations.” Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68 (2004). When the primary purpose of police questioning is investigatory and not in response to an emergency or similar situation, such statement are testimonial. Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S. Ct. 1143, 1155 (2011). Federal law is silent on whether statements made to non-police individuals are testimonial, but Ohio applies the primary purpose test “to a child declarant’s statements made to police or to those the court determines to be police agents.” Ohio v. Clark, 999 N.E.2d 592, 598 (Ohio 2013). Individuals primarily questioning children to identify abuse perpetrators in compliance with mandatory reporting statutes are police agents because their actions serve a law enforcement purpose. Id. at 596-97.

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