Statements that children make to teachers about possible abuse can be used as evidence, even if the child does not testify in court, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously today. The Associated Press reports the justices said that defendants don’t have a constitutional right to cross-examine child accusers unless their statements to school officials were made for the primary purpose of creating evidence for prosecution. The ruling is expected to make it easier for prosecutors to win domestic violence convictions.
The case involves Darius Clark of Cleveland, who was convicted of beating his girlfriend’s three-year-old son. Clark says a lower court denied him the constitutional right to confront his accuser when it said the boy didn’t have to testify, but still considered statements he made to preschool teachers describing abuse. The Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and upheld Clark’s conviction. Writing for the high court, Justice Samuel Alito said the fact that teachers have a legal duty to report child abuse suspicions to authorities does not transform a conversation between a concerned teacher and a student into a law enforcement mission aimed at gathering evidence for prosecution.