Monday, September 19, 2005

3rd Cir. expounds on definition of “testimonial” in ruling that admission of out-of-court statement was harmless error

United States v. Hinton, No. 03-3803 (3d Cir. Sept. 14, 2005), deals with a challenge to out-of court testimony under the Confrontation Clause, most recently addressed by the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). Favoring application of Crawford’s third formulation of "testimonial" ("statements made under circumstances that would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial") as ensuring compliance with the Confrontation Clause, the Third Circuit concluded that, while the witness’s 911 call here was non-testimonial, his statement to police that Hinton had threatened him with a gun was testimonial. While its admission was error because there was no showing that the witness was unavailable or that Hinton had an opportunity to cross-examine him, such error was harmless because the statement did not affect the jury’s decision. The Third Circuit affirmed the conviction, but vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing in accordance with Booker.

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