Testimonial Statements Under Crawford v. Washington

In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), the United States Supreme Court revised the framework for determining when the admission of hearsay evidence violates the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. In Crawford, the defendant and his wife Sylvia were both given Miranda warnings and questioned at the police station. Crawford, 541 U.S. at 38, 65. The Court held that Sylvia's statement was testimonial because it was given in response to "police interrogation." Id. at 52, 53 n.4. While declining to give a more specific definition of the term "interrogation," the Court held that "Sylvia's recorded statement, knowingly given in response to structured police questioning, qualifies under any conceivable definition." Id. In Crawford, the Supreme Court overruled prior precedent and established a new framework for analyzing Confrontation Clause claims. The Court held that the Confrontation Clause is always implicated when "testimonial" statements of an absent witness are admitted. Crawford, 541 U.S. at 68. The Court specifically declined to provide a comprehensive definition of "testimonial," id. n.10, but did set forth the following three categories of statements that are clearly testimonial: (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." Id. at 51-52. The Court then held that "whatever else the term "testimonial" 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." Id. at 68. Finally, the Court held that if a statement is testimonial, it may only be admitted if two conditions are satisfied: (1) the declarant is unavailable and (2) the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Id. Under Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980), the admission of hearsay evidence did not violate the Confrontation Clause where: (1) the prosecutor demonstrated that the declarant whose statements it wished to use against the defendant was unavailable; (2) after the witness was shown to be unavailable, the trial court found that the statement possessed adequate "indicia of reliability." Id. at 65-66. A hearsay statement was deemed sufficiently reliable to satisfy the Confrontation Clause when it: (1) fell within a "firmly rooted hearsay exception"; or (2) possessed "particularized guarantees of trustworthiness." Id. at 66. The Supreme Court has concluded that Crawford did not change this approach for "nontestimonial" evidence. Dedman, 2004 NMSC 37, 2-33, 136 N.M. 561, 102 P.3d 628; see also Crawford, 541 U.S. at 68. However, as to "testimonial" evidence the Confrontation Clause is violated unless: (1) the witness is unavailable; and; (2) the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine. Specifically, the Supreme Court held: 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. We leave for another day 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, 541 U.S. at 68.