Admissibility of Ex Parte Examinations

In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), the Supreme Court began with "the historical background of the confrontation clause . . . ." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1359.) "The common-law tradition is one of live testimony in court subject to adversarial testing, while the civil law condones examination in private by judicial officers. " (Ibid.) "Nonetheless, England at times adopted elements of the civil-law practice. Justices of the peace or other officials examined suspects and witnesses before trial. These examinations were sometimes read in court in lieu of live testimony . . . ." (Ibid.) "Pretrial examinations became routine under two statutes passed during the reign of Queen Mary . . . . These Marian bail and committal statutes required justices of the peace to examine suspects and witnesses in felony cases and to certify the results to the court. The examinations . . . came to be used as evidence in some cases . . . ." (Id. at p. 1360.) Finally, in Sir Walter Raleigh's treason trial, he was convicted based on statements made by his alleged accomplice "in an examination before the Privy Council and in a letter." (Ibid.) Eventually, " . . . English law developed a right of confrontation that limited these abuses." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1360.) Most significantly, by 1791, when the Sixth Amendment was ratified, it had come to be the rule that "the admissibility of an unavailable witness's pretrial examination depended on whether the defendant had had an opportunity to cross-examine him." (Crawford, at p. 1360; see also id. at p. 1361.) The court concluded: "The principal evil at which the Confrontation Clause was directed was the civil-law mode of criminal procedure, and particularly its use of ex parte examinations as evidence against the accused." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1363.) It found that the text of the confrontation clause confirmed this: "It applies to 'witnesses' against the accused -- in other words, those who 'bear testimony.' 'Testimony,' in turn, is typically 'a solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact.' An accuser who makes a formal statement to government officers bears testimony in a sense that a person who makes a casual remark to an acquaintance does not." (Id. at p. 1364, quoting 1 N. Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).) It concluded that the "focus" of the confrontation clause was on "'testimonial' statements . . . ." (Crawford, at p. 1364.) The court continued: "The historical record also supports a second proposition: that the Framers would not have allowed admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior opportunity for cross-examination." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1365.) It therefore held: "Where testimonial evidence is at issue, . . . the Sixth Amendment demands . . . unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination." (Id. at p. 1374.) The court then also held that "statements taken by police officers in the course of interrogations are . . . testimonial . . . ." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1364.) It explained: "Police interrogations bear a striking resemblance to examinations by justices of the peace in England." (Ibid .) "Justices of the peace conducting examinations under the Marian statutes were not magistrates as we understand that office today, but had an essentially investigative and prosecutorial function. England did not have a professional police force until the 19th century, , so it is not surprising that other government officers performed the investigative functions now associated primarily with the police. The involvement of government officers in the production of testimonial evidence presents the same risk, whether the officers are police or justices of the peace." (Id. at p. 1365.) It added: "We use the term 'interrogation' in its colloquial, rather than any technical legal, sense." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at pp. 1365, fn. 4.) In the case before the court, involving attempted murder and assault, the police had given the defendant's wife, Sylvia, Miranda warnings and then questioned her. (Crawford, at p. 1357.) "In response to often leading questions from police detectives, she implicated her husband in the stabbing and at least arguably undermined his self-defense claim." (Id. at p. 1372.) She refused to testify at trial, claiming a state marital privilege. (Id. at p. 1357.) As a result, a tape recording of her statement was played to the jury at the defendant's trial. (Id. at pp. 1356-1358.) The court concluded: "Sylvia's recorded statement, knowingly given in response to structured police questioning, qualifies under any conceivable definition of 'interrogation'." (Id. at p. 1365, fn. 4.) "We leave for another day," the court declared, "any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of 'testimonial.' Whatever else the term covers, it applies at a minimum to prior testimony at a preliminary hearing, before a grand jury, or at a former trial; and to police interrogations. These are the modern practices with closest kinship to the abuses at which the Confrontation Clause was directed." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1374.) The court did quote several "formulations" proposed by others, which, it said, "share a common nucleus and then define the Clause's coverage at various levels of abstraction around it." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1364.) These included: (1) "'ex parte in-court testimony or its functional equivalent -- that is, material such as affidavits, custodial examinations, prior testimony that the defendant was unable to cross-examine, or similar pretrial statements that declarants would reasonably expect to be used prosecutorially;'" (2) "'extrajudicial statements . . . contained in formalized testimonial materials, such as affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions;'" and (3) "'statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial.'" (Ibid.) Finally, the court overruled Ohio v. Roberts (1980) 448 U.S. 56, at least to the extent that it "conditioned the admissibility of all hearsay evidence on whether it falls under a 'firmly rooted hearsay exception' or bears 'particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.' " (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1369; see also id. at pp. 1370-1374.) It found this "framework . . . so unpredictable that it fails to provide meaningful protection from even core confrontation violations." (Id. at p. 1371.) It also condemned Roberts because "it applies the same mode of analysis whether or not the hearsay consists of ex parte testimony. This often results in close constitutional scrutiny in cases that are far removed from the core concerns of the Clause." (Crawford, at p. 1369.) The court admitted that the history of the clause "suggests that not all hearsay implicates the Sixth Amendment's core concerns. An off-hand, overheard remark might be unreliable evidence and thus a good candidate for exclusion under hearsay rules, but it bears little resemblance to the civil-law abuses the Confrontation Clause targeted." (Crawford, supra, 124 S. Ct. at p. 1364.) "Where nontestimonial hearsay is at issue, it is wholly consistent with the Framers' design to afford the States flexibility in their development of hearsay law . . ., as would an approach that exempted such statements from Confrontation Clause scrutiny altogether." (Id. at p. 1374.) The court confessed that its analysis "casts doubt" on whether the confrontation clause applies to nontestimonial hearsay at all. (Id. at p. 1370.) Nevertheless, it declined to resolve that question. (Ibid.)