Saturday, November 2, 2013

Crawford v. Washington case brief

Crawford v. Washington case brief summary
541 U.S. 36 (2004)

Defendant was convicted in state court of assault but asserted that the admission of his wife's statement to police, after defendant invoked state marital privilege to preclude her testimony at trial, violated defendant's constitutional right to confront witnesses against him. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, defendant appealed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Washington which upheld the conviction.

The state asserted that United States Supreme Court precedent allowed the use of the wife's statement, which arguably controverted defendant's assertion of self-defense, since the wife was unavailable as a trial witness due to marital privilege and her statement to an interrogating police officer had sufficient indicia of reliability.

  • The Supreme Court held, however, that the prior case law erroneously permitted admission of the wife's statement based on the amorphous concept of reliability without taking into account the constitutional requirement of confrontation that the statement be subject to cross-examination. 
  • The wife's statement during interrogation was testimonial in nature, rather than non-testimonial hearsay which would be properly subject to evidentiary rules concerning reliability, and defendant's right to confront the wife thus clearly included the right to cross-examine the statement, especially in view of the ambiguity in the statement. 
  • The right to confrontation was not a substantive guarantee that evidence be reliable, but rather a procedural guarantee that the reliability of the wife's statement be tested by cross-examination.


The judgment upholding defendant's conviction was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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