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Admissibility of Victim’s Statements to the Police

In Michigan v. Bryant (2011) 562 U.S. 131 S.Ct. 1143, police officers responded to a call that a man had been shot. At the scene, the responding officers found a man mortally wounded on the ground. (Ibid.) The officers asked the victim what had happened, who had shot him, and where it had happened. (Ibid.)

The victim told the officers that the defendant had shot him outside the defendant's residence and also provided details of the shooting. (Ibid.) The conversation lasted about 10 minutes. (Ibid.)

The United States Supreme Court concluded the victim's statements to the police were not testimonial statements. (Id. at p. 131 S.Ct. at p. 1167.)

As summarized by the People v. Blacksher (2011) 52 Cal.4th 769 court, the Bryant court reached its conclusion based on the following analysis: The "continuing emergency went beyond any private dispute between the defendant and the victim. Neither the victim nor the police knew the current location of the armed shooter. In addition, because the victim did not disclose the motive of the shooting, 'the police did not know, and the victim did not tell them, whether the threat was limited to him.' There was no indication that the emergency had ended because the victim gave the police 'no reason to think that the shooter would not shoot again if he arrived on the scene.'

The court also noted that the victim was bleeding, 'had difficulty breathing and talking,' and was in considerable pain. These facts did not suggest that he made his statements with the '"primary purpose" "to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution."' As for the informality of the encounter, unlike a formal station house interrogation, 'the questioning in this case occurred in an exposed, public area, prior to the arrival of emergency medical services, and in a disorganized fashion' and the circumstances revealed that 'the situation was fluid and somewhat confused,' as different officers arrived with each asking '"what had happened."'

Finally, the court considered the statements and actions of the parties. The officers, by asking the victim what had happened, who had shot him, and where the shooting took place, posed 'the exact type of questions necessary to allow the police to "'assess the situation, the threat to their own safety, and possible danger to the potential victim'" and to the public , including to allow them to ascertain "whether they would be encountering a violent felon," .'" (Blacksher, supra, 52 Cal.4th at pp. 815-816.)