Maryland v. Craig

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Maryland v. Craig
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 18, 1990
Decided June 27, 1990
Full case name Maryland v. Sandra A. Craig
Citations 497 U.S. 836 (more)
110 S. Ct. 3157; 111 L. Ed. 2d 666; 58 U.S.L.W. 5044; 1990 U.S. LEXIS 3457; 30 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 1
Prior history Defendant convicted, Circuit Court of Howard County, 9-27-88; affirmed, 544 A.2d 784 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1988); reversed, 560 A.2d 1120 (Md. 1989); cert. granted, 493 U.S. 1041 (1990)
Subsequent history New trial ordered, 588 A.2d 328 (Md. 1991)
Testimony by an alleged child sex abuse victim via closed-circuit television did not violate the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses. Maryland Court of Appeals vacated and remanded.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority O'Connor, joined by Rehnquist, White, Blackmun, Kennedy
Dissent Scalia, joined by Brennan, Marshall, Stevens
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VI

Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause, which provides criminal defendants with the right to confront witnesses against them, did not bar the use of one-way closed-circuit television to present testimony by an alleged child sex abuse victim.

The child was reportedly unable to testify in the physical presence of the defendant due to severe emotional trauma. The trial court set her up in a separate room with the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, so that the defendant and jury could only see her testify via the live television screen in the courtroom, and she could not see them. The defendant was convicted, and the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that her Sixth Amendment rights were violated by the use of the transmitted testimony, because the Confrontation Clause guaranteed face-to-face confrontation. The Supreme Court reversed the Maryland high court, reinstating the conviction.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority, ruling that the Confrontation Clause merely embodies a "preference" for face-to-face, in person confrontation, which may be limited to satisfy sufficiently important interests. Because the child witness was cross-examined by the defendant's attorney and her general demeanor was visible in the courtroom, the defendant had a constitutionally sufficient opportunity to test her credibility and the substance of her testimony before the jury.

Craig came shortly after the Court had invalidated the use of a screen to hide a similarly situated child witness/victim in Coy v. Iowa. The court in Coy found "no individualized findings (that the victims) needed special protection." Indeed, "face-to-face presence may, unfortunately, upset the truthful rape victim or abused child; but by the same token it may confound and undo the false accuser, or reveal the child coached by a malevolent adult." In contrast, the Maryland statute in Craig provided for an exception when a child's testimony would result in "serious emotional distress." Furthermore, the use of one-way closed-circuit TV did not considerably obstruct the jury's observation of the child's testimony.

The court noted that the fundamental purpose of the 6th Amendment was to prevent ex parte affidavits. Mattox v. United States 156 U.S. 237, 242 (1895). It further identified four primary guarantees embodied in the Confrontation Clause:

  • The right of "personal examination"
  • That a witness will testify under oath
  • That a witness will submit to cross-examination
  • That the jury may observe the demeanor of the witness in making his statement

The court noted that hearsay exceptions demonstrated that no defendant had an absolute right to a face-to-face encounter with adversarial witnesses. While the Maryland exception did not provide face-to-face confrontation, the final three preserved guarantees were present. The State's interest in the physical and psychological well-being of child abuse victims could outweigh the defendant's right to face his accusers in court.

The court remanded the case for a determination on the necessity of the accommodations.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in dissent, wrote that he was "persuaded...that the Maryland procedure is virtually constitutional. Since it is not, however, actually constitutional I would affirm the judgment of the Maryland Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of conviction."

Many states subsequently declined to follow Craig's reasoning when applying their own comparable constitutional provisions. Some state constitutions furthermore expressly require confrontation to be "face to face", and so criminal defendants in those states will have the benefit of the broader state protections.[citation needed]

The continued validity of this decision in the face of Crawford v. Washington has been called into question. Craig relies in large part on Ohio v. Roberts, which was overturned by Crawford. A petition for certiorari arguing this point was filed with the Supreme Court in March 2007.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Confrontation Blog: A Challenge to Maryland v. Craig

External links[edit]

  • Text of Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia