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Article Title

Evidence

Publication Date

7-2004

Document Type

Survey Article

Abstract

On March 8, 2004, the United States Supreme Court, in Crawford v. Washington, rendered its most significant evidence decision in a number of years. Since the Court's 1980 ruling in Ohio v. Roberts, holding that the Sixth Amendment's confrontation clause does not necessarily bar the admission of out of court statements in criminal trials, federal and state courts have increasingly allowed prosecutors to use hearsay statements against criminal defendants if trial judges found that the statements bore sufficient indicia of reliability. Crawford likely will bring an end to that.

As the author has often commented in surveys of Georgia evidence decisions, Georgia appellate courts have stretched Ohio v. Roberts to its absolute limits through what has become known as the necessity exception to the rule against hearsay Statements by an absent witness to police, for example, are routinely admitted under the suspect theory that statements to law enforcement officers are somehow inherently reliable. In Crawford, the Supreme Court overruled Ohio v. Roberts and held that out of court statements by unavailable witnesses are not admissible at trial unless the witness is unavailable and the defendant had prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness; no matter how reliable the statements may be, they are not admissible absent an opportunity by the defendant to cross-examine the declarant. The precise ramifications of Crawford will take some time to sort out, but they no doubt will be pervasive. Clearly, it would seem, Georgia's necessity exception will fall.

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