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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Supreme Court: Statements Made During Emergency are Admissible in Court

From Associated Press: The Supreme Court ruled Monday that statements made by crime victims to 911 operators or police during emergencies can be used in court even if those victims do not testify at trial.

By a 9-0 vote in Washington v. Davis, justices ruled that a Washington man's right to confront his accuser was not violated because he could not cross-examine his ex-girlfriend, who claimed in a 911 call that he had assaulted her.

In another case, Hammon v. Indiana, the justices ruled 8-1 that a police officer had crossed the line, from dealing with an emergency to conducting an investigation, when he questioned a woman about what her husband had done to her well after she had been assaulted.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said 911 statements are admissible in court when police are trying to deal with an emergency. But such statements cannot be used if the emergency has ended and police are gathering evidence to use in filing criminal charges, he said.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter in the Indiana case, writing that he believed the officer's testimony about what the woman had told him was admissible in court. But Thomas said he does not believe the majority's definition of when an emergency ends and an investigation begins is workable. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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