State v. Price

In State v. Price (2006) 158 Wn.2d 630, 637-648 146 P.3d 1183, four-year-old R.T. disclosed to her mother and a detective that the defendant had touched her vaginal area at a day care facility. (Id. at p. 1184.) The mother and the detective testified to these disclosures at trial. (Id. at pp. 1184-1186.) R.T. was six years old at the time of trial. (Id. at p. 1184.) She indicated she knew the defendant as "Chucky." (Id. at p. 1185.) However, when asked about the alleged abuse, she would answer only: "Me forgot." (Ibid.) When asked what she had told her mother, the prosecutor, and the detective about Chucky, she merely "shrugged." (Ibid.) Defense counsel did not cross-examine R.T. (Ibid.) Following an extensive discussion of Green, Owens, and Crawford (among other authorities), the Washington Supreme Court held that there was no confrontation clause violation. (State v. Price, supra, at p. 1192.) The court explained: "In sum, all of the purposes of the confrontation clause are satisfied even when a witness answers that he or she is unable to recall. Thus, we hold that when a witness is asked questions about the events at issue and about his or her prior statements, but answers that he or she is unable to remember the charged events or the prior statements, this provides the defendant sufficient opportunity for cross-examination to satisfy the confrontation clause. We conclude that a witness's inability to remember does not implicate Crawford nor foreclose admission of pretrial statements. Admission of R.T.'s out-of-court statements to her mother and to the detective did not violate the confrontation clause in this case. Indeed, R.T. was physically present in the courtroom and she confronted the defendant face to face; she was competent to testify and testified under oath; the defense retained the full opportunity to cross-examine her and in fact called attention to her lack of memory in closing; and the judge, jury, and defendant were able to view R.T.'s demeanor and body language while she was on the stand such that they could evaluate for themselves whether R.T. was being truthful about her lack of memory." (Ibid.)