Ohio v. Clark

135 S. Ct. 2173 (2015)

Facts

D lived with his girlfriend, T. T., and her two children: L. P., a 3-year-old boy, and A. T., an 18-month-old girl. D was also T. T.’s pimp, and he would regularly send her on trips to Washington, D. C., to work as a prostitute. T. T. went on one such trip, and she left the children in D’s care. D took L. P. to preschool, and one of L. P.’s teachers observed that L. P.’s left eye appeared bloodshot. Eventually, L.P. told the teacher that he “‘fell.’” The teacher also noticed red marks on L. P.’s face. L.P. eventually began to talk and when his shirt was lifted more injuries were discovered. The child abuse hotline was called to alert authorities about the suspected abuse. D denied responsibility for the injuries and quickly left with L. P. The next day, a social worker took L.P. to a hospital, where a physician discovered additional injuries suggesting child abuse. L. P. had a black eye, belt marks on his back and stomach, and bruises all over his body. A. T. had two black eyes, a swollen hand, and a large burn on her cheek and two pigtails had been ripped out at the roots of her hair. At trial, the State introduced L. P.’s statements to his teachers as evidence of D’s guilt, but L. P. did not testify. The statements were admitted under Ohio Rule of Evidence 807, which allows the admission of reliable hearsay by child abuse victims. D moved to exclude testimony about L. P.’s out-of-court statements under the Confrontation Clause. The motion was denied in that L. P.’s responses were not testimonial statements covered by the Sixth Amendment. D was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment. D appealed, and a state appellate court reversed on the ground that the introduction of L. P.’s out-of-court statements violated the Confrontation Clause. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.