Friday, May 20, 2005

Wash. Supreme Court clarifies rules for hearsay in sentencing modification hearings

[CASE] The Washington Supreme Court clarifies the standards for admission of hearsay testimony in sentencing modification hearings. State v. Abd-Rahmaan, --- P.3d ---, 2005 WL 1115858 (Wash. May 12, 2005).

Mr. Abd-Rahmaan was serving the community placement portion of his sentence for delivery of cocaine. The state sought to modify his sentence, alleging violations of certain conditions of his community placement. At the hearing, his Community Corrections Officer testified about what he had been told by staff at the day labor organization where Mr. Abd-Rahmaan had worked. The trial court admitted the hearsay and increased the sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed

After an extensive discussion of Supreme Court and Washington precedents, the Washington Supreme Court summarized:

We reverse the Court of Appeals' decision. While we note that relief for Abd-Rahmaan here is moot because he has already served his time, we issue this opinion to clarify the rule for future sentence modification hearings. We hold that Crawford does not apply in sentence modification hearings. Under Morrissey and Dahl, the right to confront witnesses at sentence modification hearings exists unless good cause is established by the trial court to admit the hearsay evidence. When admitting hearsay on a finding of good cause, trial courts are required to articulate the basis on which they are admitting the hearsay testimony by either oral or written findings in order to facilitate appellate review. While we agree with the Court of Appeals that trial courts should articulate the reasons for admitting hearsay evidence in these hearings, we disagree that the record here is sufficient to review the trial court's reasoning.
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