Admission of 911 tape does not violate the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment

by Annette Burns on June 29, 2006

The 911 tape of a victim’s 911 telephone call to report an incident of ongoing domestic violence is not "testimonial" and therefore does not violate the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment, even though the witness/ speaker on the tape is not available to be cross-examined, says the U.S. Supreme Court.   Davis v. Washington, filed June 19, 2006 in 2006 WL 1667285 (U.S.)

Because the victim’s call was "speaking about events as they were actually happening, instead of describing past events", the statements were not testimonial and were admissible.  The statements were made as a "call for help against a bona fide physical threat"  and "to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency".   As such, the 911 tape was admitted and the conviction of the defendant was upheld even though the sole source at trial which identified the defendant as the assailant was the taped statement which identified him.

Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer and Alito.   Justice Thomas concurred in part.

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