Crawford v. Washington

541 U.S. 36 (2004)


Kenneth Lee was stabbed at his apartment. Police arrested D later that night. After giving D and his wife Miranda warnings, detectives interrogated each of them twice. D eventually confessed that he and Sylvia had gone in search of Lee because he was upset over an earlier incident in which Lee had tried to rape her. The two had found Lee at his apartment, and a fight ensued in which Lee was stabbed in the torso and D's hand was cut. Sylvia corroborated D's story about the events leading up to the fight, but her account of the fight itself was arguably different--particularly with respect to whether Lee had drawn a weapon before petitioner assaulted him. D was charged with assault and attempted murder. At trial, he claimed self-defense. Sylvia did not testify because of the state marital privilege, which generally bars a spouse from testifying without the other spouse's consent. In Washington, this privilege does not extend to a spouse's out-of-court statements admissible under a hearsay exception, so the State sought to introduce Sylvia's tape-recorded statements to the police as evidence that the stabbing was not in self-defense. Noting that Sylvia had admitted she led D to Lee's apartment and thus had facilitated the assault, the State invoked the hearsay exception for statements against penal interest, D objected contending that admitting the evidence would violate his federal constitutional right to be 'confronted with the witnesses against him.' According to Ohio v. Roberts, that right does not bar admission of an unavailable witness's statement against a criminal defendant if the statement bears 'adequate 'indicia of reliability.' To meet that test, evidence must either fall within a 'firmly rooted hearsay exception' or bear 'particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.' The trial court admitted the statement on the latter ground. The prosecution played the tape for the jury and relied on it in closing, arguing that it was 'damning evidence' that 'completely refutes [petitioner's] claim of self-defense.' D was convicted of assault. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed. It applied a nine-factor test to determine whether Sylvia's statement bore particularized guarantees of trustworthiness, and noted several reasons why it did not. The court determined that, although the two statements agreed about the events leading up to the stabbing, they differed on the issue crucial to D's self-defense claim. The Washington Supreme Court reinstated the conviction, concluding that, although Sylvia's statement did not fall under a firmly rooted hearsay exception, it bore guarantees of trustworthiness: ' 'The Supreme Court granted certiorari.