The Supreme Court appears poised to make it far harder to prosecute cases of domestic violence when victims are unwilling or unable to testify in court, says the Los Angeles Times. Today, the high court is hearing the appeals of two men who were convicted of assaulting women based, in one case, on a recorded 911 call, and in the other, on a police officer’s testimony of what the victim told him. The 911 case was summarized in a Crime & Justice News digest last Friday.
Over the last two decades, prosecutors in domestic violence and child abuse cases have relied heavily on testimony by police officers and counselors who interviewed alleged victims when they could not or would not appear in court. Justice Antonin Scalia. He insists the Constitution guarantees all defendants a right to confront their accusers in court, and sees no basis for an exception in cases of domestic violence or child abuse. The only two dissenters – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – are now gone as Rehnquist has since died and O’Connor retired. The National Network to End Domestic Violence and several women’s rights groups filed a brief that warned the court about the potential impact of requiring in-court testimony in all cases. “This would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute the vast majority of domestic violence cases,” said law professor Joan S. Meier of George Washington University, who helped write the group’s brief.