Davis v. Washington
|Davis v. Washington|
|Argued March 20, 2006|
Decided June 19, 2006
|Full case name||Adrian Martell Davis, Petitioner v. Washington; Hershel Hammon, Petitioner v. Indiana|
|Citations||547 U.S. 813 (more)|
|Prior history||On writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Washington; on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Indiana; State v. Davis, 154 Wn.2d 291, 111 P.3d 844, 2005 Wash. LEXIS 462 (2005) Hammon v. State, 829 N.E.2d 444, 2005 Ind. LEXIS 541 (Ind., 2005)|
|Subsequent history||On remand at, Remanded by Hammon v. State, 2006 Ind. LEXIS 793 (Ind., Sept. 7, 2006)|
|A 911 phone call describing an "ongoing emergency" is not testimonial in nature, and thus may be admitted at trial even if the caller is not available without violating the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause.|
|Majority||Scalia, joined by Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, Roberts, Alito|
|Crawford v. Washington, Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.|
Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that hearsay statements made in a 911 call asking for aid were not "testimonial" in nature and thus their introduction at trial did not violate the Confrontation Clause as defined in Crawford v. Washington.
Davis was arrested after Michelle McCottry called 911 and told the operator that he had beaten her with his fists and then left. At trial, McCottry did not testify, but the 911 call was offered as evidence of the connection between Davis and McCottry's injuries. Davis objected, arguing that presenting the recording without giving him the opportunity to cross-examine McCottry violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the call was not "testimonial" and was therefore different from the statements at issue in Crawford.
Opinion of the Court
In a decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, as interpreted in Crawford v. Washington, does not apply to "non-testimonial" statements not intended to be used in a future criminal prosecution. Although McCottry identified her attacker to the 911 operator, she provided the information intending to help the police resolve an "ongoing emergency," not to testify to a past crime. The Court reasoned that under the circumstances, McCottry was not acting as a "witness," and the 911 transcript was not "testimony." Therefore, the Sixth Amendment did not require her to appear at trial and be cross-examined.
This case was decided with Hammon v. Indiana. In that case, the defendant was convicted of domestic battery. Responding to a call, police found the wife on the porch and the husband inside. Questioning them separately, the wife signed a police statement regarding abuse by her husband. She later refused to testify at trial. The Supreme Court ruled that the police report did qualify as testimonial in nature and was therefore inadmissible.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. He argued that though McCottry's statements were not testimonial, the Court should not "guess" at the primary motive behind the statements.
- The Supreme Court, 2005 Term — Leading Cases, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 213 (2006).