__ U.S. __ (2015), 13-1352, Ohio v. Clark

Docket Nº:13-1352
Citation:__ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2173, 192 L.Ed.2d 306, 83 U.S.L.W. 4484
Opinion Judge:ALITO, JUSTICE.
Party Name:OHIO, PETITIONER v. DARIUS CLARK
Attorney:Matthew Edmund Meyer argued the cause for petitioner. Ilana Eisenstein argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of the court. Jeffrey L. Fisher argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. SCALIA, JUSTICE with who...
Case Date:June 18, 2015
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

Clark sent his girlfriend to engage in prostitution while he cared for her 3-year-old son L.P. and 18-month-old daughter A.T. When L.P.’s preschool teachers noticed marks on his body, he identified Clark as his abuser. At Clark’s trial, the state introduced L.P.’s statements to his teachers as evidence of Clark’s guilt, but L.P. did not testify. The trial court denied Clark’s motion to exclude the statements under... (see full summary)

 
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Page __

__ U.S. __ (2015)

135 S.Ct. 2173, 192 L.Ed.2d 306, 83 U.S.L.W. 4484, 25 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 366

OHIO, PETITIONER

v.

DARIUS CLARK

No. 13-1352

United States Supreme Court

June 18, 2015

[135 S.Ct. 2174] Argued March 2, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO

Reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS

[135 S.Ct. 2175] [192 L.Ed.2d 310] Respondent Darius Clark sent his girlfriend away to engage in prostitution [135 S.Ct. 2176] while he cared for her 3-year-old son L. P. and 18-month-old daughter A. T. When L. P.'s preschool teachers noticed marks on his body, he identified Clark as his abuser. Clark was subsequently tried on multiple counts related to the abuse of both children. At trial, the State introduced L. P.'s statements to his teachers as evidence of Clark's guilt, but L. P. did not testify. The trial court denied Clark's motion to exclude the statements under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause. A jury convicted Clark on all but one count. The state appellate court reversed the conviction on Confrontation Clause grounds, and the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed.

Held : The introduction of L. P.'s statements at trial did not violate the Confrontation Clause. Pp. 4-12.

(a) This Court's decision in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 54, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177, held that the Confrontation Clause generally prohibits the introduction of " testimonial" statements by a nontestifying witness, unless the witness is " unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior opportunity for cross-examination." A statement qualifies as testimonial if the " primary purpose" of the conversation was to " creat[e] an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony." Michigan v. Bryant, 562 U.S. 344, 369, 131 S.Ct. 1143, 179 L.Ed.2d 93. In making that " primary purpose" determination, courts must consider " all of the relevant circumstances." Ibid. " Where no such primary purpose exists, the admissibility of a statement is the concern of state and federal rules of evidence, not the Confrontation Clause." Id., at 359, 131 S.Ct. 1143, 179 L.Ed.2d 93. But that does not mean that the Confrontation Clause bars every statement that satisfies the " primary purpose" test. The Court has recognized that the Confrontation Clause does not prohibit the introduction of out-of-court statements that would have been admissible in a [192 L.Ed.2d 311] criminal case at the time of the founding. See Giles v. California, 554 U.S. 353, 358-359, 128 S.Ct. 2678, 171 L.Ed.2d 488; Crawford, 541 U.S. at 56, n. 6, 62, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177. Thus, the primary purpose test is a necessary, but not always sufficient, condition for the exclusion of out-of-court statements under the Confrontation Clause. Pp. 4-7.

(b) Considering all the relevant circumstances, L. P.'s statements were not testimonial. L. P.'s statements were not made with the primary purpose of creating evidence for Clark's prosecution. They occurred in the context of an ongoing emergency involving suspected child abuse. L. P.'s teachers asked questions aimed at identifying and ending a threat. They did not inform the child that his answers would be used to arrest or punish his abuser. L. P. never hinted that he intended his statements to be used by the police or prosecutors. And the conversation was informal and spontaneous. L. P.'s age further confirms that the statements in question were not testimonial because statements by very young children will rarely, if ever, implicate the Confrontation Clause. As a historical matter, moreover, there is strong evidence that statements made in circumstances like these were regularly admitted at common law. Finally, although statements to individuals other than law enforcement officers are not categorically outside the Sixth Amendment's reach, the fact that L. P. was speaking to his teachers is highly relevant. Statements to individuals who are not principally charged with uncovering and prosecuting criminal behavior are significantly less likely to be testimonial than those given to law enforcement officers. Pp. 7-10.

[135 S.Ct. 2177] (c) Clark's arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. Mandatory reporting obligations do not convert a conversation between a concerned teacher and her student into a law enforcement mission aimed at gathering evidence for prosecution. It is irrelevant that the teachers' questions and their duty to report the matter had the natural tendency to result in Clark's prosecution. And this Court's Confrontation Clause decisions do not determine whether a statement is testimonial by examining whether a jury would view the statement as the equivalent of in-court testimony. Instead, the test is whether a statement was given with the " primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony." Bryant, supra, at 358, 131 S.Ct. 1143, 179 L.Ed.2d 93. Here, the answer is clear: L. P.'s statements to his teachers were not testimonial. Pp. 11-12.

137 Ohio St.3d 346, 2013-Ohio-4731, 999 N.E.2d 592, reversed and remanded.

Matthew Edmund Meyer argued the cause for petitioner.

Ilana Eisenstein argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of the court.

Jeffrey L. Fisher argued the cause for respondent.

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

OPINION

ALITO, JUSTICE.

Darius Clark sent his girlfriend hundreds of miles away to engage in [192 L.Ed.2d 312] prostitution and agreed to care for her two young children while she was out of town. A day later, teachers discovered red marks on her 3-year-old son, and the boy identified Clark as his abuser. The question in this case is whether the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause prohibited prosecutors from introducing those statements when the child was not available to be cross-examined. Because neither the child nor his teachers had the primary purpose of assisting in Clark's prosecution, the child's statements do not implicate the Confrontation Clause and therefore were admissible at trial.

I

Darius Clark, who went by the nickname " Dee," lived in Cleveland, Ohio, with his girlfriend, T. T., and her two children: L. P., a 3-year-old boy, and A. T., an 18-month-old girl. 1 Clark was also T. T.'s pimp, and he would regularly send her on trips to Washington, D. C., to work as a prostitute. In March 2010, T. T. went on [135 S.Ct. 2178] one such trip, and she left the children in Clark's care.

The next day, Clark took L. P. to preschool. In the lunchroom, one of L. P.'s teachers, Ramona Whitley, observed that L. P.'s left eye appeared bloodshot. She asked him " '[w]hat happened,'" and he initially said nothing. 137 Ohio St.3d 346, 347, 2013-Ohio-4731, 999 N.E.2d 592, 594. Eventually, however, he told the teacher that he " 'fell.'" Ibid. When they moved into the brighter lights of a classroom, Whitley noticed " '[r]ed marks, like whips of some sort,'" on L. P.'s face. Ibid. She notified the lead teacher, Debra Jones, who asked L. P., " 'Who did this? What happened to you?'" Id., at 348, 999 N.E.2d, at 595. According to Jones, L. P. " 'seemed kind of bewildered'" and " 'said something like, Dee, Dee.'" Ibid. Jones asked L. P. whether Dee is " big or little," to which L. P. responded that " Dee is big." App. 60, 64. Jones then brought L. P. to her supervisor, who lifted the boy's shirt, revealing more injuries. Whitley called a child abuse hotline to alert authorities about the suspected abuse.

When Clark later arrived at the school, he denied responsibility for the injuries and quickly left with L. P. The next day, a social worker found the children at Clark's mother's house and took them to a hospital, where a physician discovered additional injuries suggesting child abuse. L. P. had a black eye, belt marks on his back and stomach, and bruises all over his body. A. T. had two black eyes, a swollen hand, and a large burn on her cheek, and two pigtails had been ripped out at the roots of her hair.

A grand jury indicted Clark on five counts of felonious assault (four related to A. T. and one related to L. P.), two counts of endangering children (one for each child), and two counts of domestic violence (one for each child). At trial, the State introduced L. P.'s statements to his teachers as evidence of Clark's guilt, but L. P. did not testify. Under Ohio law, children younger than 10 years old are incompetent to testify if they " appear incapable of receiving just impressions of the facts and transactions respecting which they are examined, or of relating them truly." Ohio Rule Evid. 601(A) (Lexis 2010). After conducting a hearing, the trial court concluded that L. P. was not competent to testify. But under Ohio Rule of Evidence 807, [192 L.Ed.2d 313] which allows the admission of reliable hearsay by child abuse victims, the court ruled that L. P.'s statements to his teachers bore sufficient guarantees of trustworthiness to be admitted as evidence.

Clark moved to exclude testimony about L. P.'s out-of-court statements under the Confrontation Clause. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that L. P.'s responses were not testimonial statements covered by the Sixth Amendment. The jury found Clark guilty on all counts except for one assault count related to A. T., and it sentenced him to 28 years' imprisonment. Clark appealed his conviction, and a state appellate court reversed...

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