Friday, May 20, 2005

Does admission of 911 call violate defendant's confrontation right?

[CASE] The Washington Supreme Court addresses the admissibility of a 911 call when the caller was not present for cross-examination. State v. Davis, --- P.3d ---, 2005 WL 1115865 (Wash. May 12, 2005).

Facts: A woman called 911 and hung up without speaking. The 911 operator called her back. The woman "was hysterical and crying as she responded, 'He's here jumpin' on me again." She told the operator that the defendant had hit her with his fists, that he had just left, and that she had a protective order against him. Police officers responded within four minutes, interviewed the woman, saw her injuries, and observed her conduct.

The prosecutor was unable to locate the woman at the time of trial. The 911 tape was admitted. Defendant was convicted of felony violation of the provisions of a domestic no-conduct order.

The Supreme Court holds admission of the tape was proper (although 911 tapes are not always admissible -- they must be evaluated case by case). Justice Sanders dissents, finding that the conversation in this case was testimonial.

The case also involves a jury instruction issue.

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