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Friday, February 19, 2016

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re confrontation clause

In Dee Ward v. State of Indiana, a 20-page, 3-2 opinion, Chief Justice Rush writes:

Dee Ward was charged with battering J.M., his girlfriend. During treatment for her injuries, J.M. told a paramedic and a forensic nurse that Ward was her attacker. When J.M. failed to appear for depositions or to testify at trial, the State relied on her statements to the paramedic and the forensic nurse to implicate Ward, over Ward’s objection that the evidence was “testimonial hearsay” that violated his federal and State confrontation rights.

We hold the statements are non-testimonial. Asking J.M. who attacked her was not aimed at obtaining a substitute for trial testimony—rather, it was a vital part of providing appropriate medical and psychological treatment and service referrals, as the applicable standard of care requires. Accordingly, J.M.’s hearsay statements were properly admitted into evidence. We therefore affirm Ward’s convictions for C-felony battery and A-misdemeanor domestic battery. * * *

As a general matter, identifying a domestic-violence victim’s attacker is integral to the medical standard of care for such cases—and nothing in the particular circumstances of this case leads us away from that conclusion. Accordingly, J.M.’s hearsay statements to the Paramedic and Forensic Nurse identifying Ward as her assailant were not testimonial, and were properly admitted into evidence. Ward’s convictions are affirmed.

David and Massa, JJ., concur.

Rucker, J., dissents in part with separate opinion in which Dickson, J., concurs. [J.Rucker's dissent begins on p. 16] I respectfully dissent from that portion of the majority opinion declaring as non-testimonial the statements J.M. made to the Forensic Nurse identifying Ward as her attacker. It is certainly true there are circumstances under which the identity of an alleged abuser is necessary to enable medical personnel to provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment. But here the majority goes a step further and essentially takes the position that in all cases involving a medical care provider—no matter the facts—the identity of the alleged abuser is necessary, non-testimonial, and admissible in the face of a Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause challenge. I cannot agree because this sets a dangerous precedent for future cases. * * *

In sum J.M.’s statements to the Forensic Nurse were testimonial and thus inadmissible in the face of a Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause challenge. In the paraphrased words of the Davis Court, I “do not think it conceivable that the protections of the Confrontation Clause can readily be evaded by having a note-taking [Forensic Nurse] recite the unsworn hearsay testimony of the declarant, instead of having the declarant sign a deposition.” Davis, 547 U.S. at 826. I therefore respectfully dissent from the majority’s contrary position on this point. Otherwise I concur.

Dickson, J., concurs.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 19, 2016 02:28 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions