Wednesday, February 20, 2008

State Court Could Apply Crawford Rule Retroactively

In 1996 Stephen Danforth was convicted of sexual conduct with a minor. His alleged victim, a six-year-old, did not testify, but the jury was shown a videotape interview with her. In 2004, the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, Findlaw, ruled that testimonial statements -- even in recordings -- must be subject to cross-examination. So Danforth sought post-conviction relief in Minnesota.

The state court declined the relief because it did not think it had the option to extend the rule announced in Crawford retroactively. Today the Supreme Court held otherwise -- the state court isn't required to apply the rule retroactively, but it can do so. And so the case is reversed an remanded. Danforth v. Minnesota, No. 06-8273, Court website.

See Lyle Denniston, Analysis: ‘Creating’ or ‘declaring’ rights, SCOTUSblog, Feb. 20, 2008:

Perhaps it is not enough to gladden the hearts of true “originalists,” but a clear majority of the Supreme Court has newly acknowledged that, when it comes to constitutional rights, they always existed and did not just emerge out of modern judicial creativity. That concept, most closely identified with the jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia, is a basic rationale behind Wednesday’s 7-2 decision in Danforth v. Minnesota (06-8273) . . .

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