The Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to face their accusers in court, but what happens when the accuser is not available for cross-examination because she was murdered by the very person she would testify against, asks the Christian Science Monitor? Today, the Supreme Court takes up a case in which prosecutors used a murder victim’s prior statement to police about alleged domestic abuse to help convict the man who later killed her. The California Supreme Court ruled allowed the jury to consider allegations made in a police report as reliable evidence. The Giles v. California case is emerging as a major test of how courts should enforce the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause.
If the high court sides with the defendant, the decision could make it harder to win convictions in certain types of murder, domestic-abuse, and child-molestation cases. If the justices embrace a less restrictive view of the confrontation clause, it could raise the possibility of defendants being tried and convicted on unsworn allegations that they are powerless to refute. Thirty-seven states, a number of battered women’s groups, and child-abuse prosecutors filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the justices to uphold the California ruling.