Friday, April 27, 2007

Court of Appeals Finds Way Around Crawford v. Washington

First, let your mind wander backto May of 2006 when yr. ob't. servant opined that a certain Justice Scalia seemed to have let his love affair with the confrontation clause prod him into declaring war on victims of domestic abuse. After you've refreshed your memory, consider

State v. Schaer, no. 05-0559 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 25, 2007)

Schaer beat his live in partner Bergan to a pulp, shattering the orbit of her left eye and leaving abrasions, bruises and numerous bite marks. Bergan identified Schaer as the assailant but later recanted. The state introduced statements from Bergan's stepsister, a nurse and a doctor at the hospital and a policeman who'd interviewed her.

Schaer invoked Crawford. v. Washington, stating that allowing these witnesses to testify as to out of court statements made by Bergan would violate Scalia's beloved confrontation clause.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that the statements that Bergan made to the witnesses were not testimonial in nature, but rather excited utterances and statements made for medical diagnosis and treatment and thus proper exceptions to the hearsay rule. The statement given to the police officer was not shown to have been made in the course of an interrogation.

It therefore seems that our Court has taken a closer look at the real world milieu of domestic abuse and has come down on the side of the angels rather than of Scalia.

The moral for officers is sound: let the victim tell her story. If your cruiser is equipped with video equipment, leave it running while you investigate and get all that good audio on tape with an open mic.

A tip o' the hat to Officer Jeff Dawson of the DMPD for explaining to me how this worked when he was a Winterset officer. Smart thinking Jeff.


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