Assault and Attempted Murder Charges for Stabbing a Man

Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 involved a defendant who was charged with assault and attempted murder for stabbing a man who allegedly tried to rape his wife. The defendant's wife had witnessed the stabbing. The police advised the defendant's wife of the Miranda warnings, conducted an interrogation, and obtained a tape-recorded statement from her. The wife admitted she led defendant to the victim's residence and thus facilitated the assault. The wife did not testify at trial because of the state's marital privilege, but the prosecutor was permitted to present her tape-recorded statement to the jury as a declaration against her penal interest. The defendant was convicted of assault. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the admission of the wife's statements as trustworthy under Roberts. (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at pp. 38-42.) Crawford changed the constitutional analysis based on its detailed review of the historical roots of the Sixth Amendment. (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at pp. 42-50.) Two important principles emerged from this review. First, the confrontation clause applies to "'testimonial' statements." (Id. at p. 51.) Second, the framers of the constitution "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. " (Id. at pp. 53-54.) Crawford emphasized that it "did not read the historical sources to say that a prior opportunity to cross-examine was merely a sufficient, rather than a necessary, condition for admissibility of testimonial statements. They suggest that this requirement was dispositive, and not merely one of several ways to establish reliability." (Id. at pp. 55-56.) Crawford created a new distinction between testimonial and nontestimonial statements under the Confrontation Clause. The text of the Confrontation Clause focuses on testimonial statements and "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." (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at p. 51.) "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 does Roberts, and as would an approach that exempted such statements from Confrontation Clause scrutiny altogether. Where testimonial evidence is at issue, however, the Sixth Amendment demands what the common law required: unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination." (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at p. 68.) Crawford noted some statements admissible as exceptions to the hearsay rule were not testimonial in nature, such as business records or statements in furtherance of a conspiracy (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at p. 56), and left open the question whether the Sixth Amendment incorporated an exception for dying declarations. (Id. at p. 56, fn. 6.)