Ohio v. Clark

A question of law enforcement agents and the abuse testimony

Was the application of hearsay rules acceptable in the case at hand?

BRIEF AMICUS CURIAE FERN L. NESSON AND CHARLES R. NESSON IN SUPPORT OF RESPONDENT


Issue: (1) Whether an individual's obligation to report suspected child abuse makes that individual an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Confrontation Clause; and (2) whether a child's out-of-court statements to a teacher in response to the teacher's concerns about potential child abuse qualify as “testimonial” statements subject to the Confrontation Clause.


Summary

Hearsay and the Confrontation Clause



Are teachers considered agents of law enforcement & why is this important to the case?

  1. Teachers must report any suspicion of child abuse to authorities due to Ohio’s mandatory reporting law.
  2. The defense is trying to argue this makes teachers, who has to report child abuse, law enforcement agents because they must report child abuse to authorities..
  3. Teachers’ purpose in asking about child abuse is not to incriminate someone, but rather to protect the child. Due to this, they cannot be considered agents of law enforcement.
  4. If a child’s out of court statements are made to a teacher for the purpose of protection and not further investigation, the statements are not testimonial.
  5. Source: Morales, C., & Martinez, S. (n.d.). Ohio v. Clark. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/13-135
  6. If the statements are not testimonial because they were made to a private party informally, such as teachers, then the child is not obligated to testify and therefore, Clark does not have a case that the Confrontation Clause is being violated.

Assuming that teacher is considered law enforcement, are statements made to him/her testimonial?

  1. In most states including Ohio, it is the legal obligation of a teacher to report such claims of abuse, allowing the statements to be testimonial. (Walsh)
  2. The child was a minor, therefore, could not testify in court without a competancy test. This allows the teacher to enforce her law enforcement role on behalf of the child (18 U.S. Code § 3509)
  3. Because the teacher is a teacher alongside an agent of the state, the Miranda rights are not necessary in this case, therefore, the statements were valid, and testimonial (Ohio)


Can the child (L.P.) give testimony on the stand due to his/her age and the malleability of a child’s brain? Furthermore the competency test and its ability to make this decision.

The Cleveland State law review dictates that the common competency test requires “the capacity and intelligence of the child, his appreciation for the difference between truth and falsehood, as well as of his duty to tell the former.”

“These experimental manipulations likely understate the difficulties, because the children were not testifying in actual cases, in which the subject would most likely involve victimization, and the defendant would most likely be a familiar adult.”



Did the teacher question LP with the intent of securing a case, and if so, what implications does this have for the case?

Teachers questioned LP because of an immediate danger to his safety, therefore presenting his testimonial through a third party does not violate the 6th amendment’s confrontation clause.


  • CRAWFORD v. WASHINGTON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 15 March 2015.

  • Crawford v. Washington. U.S. Supreme Court. 8 Mar. 2004. Print.
  • Michigan v. Bryant. U.S. Supreme Court. Oct. 2010. Print.
  • Argument Preview: The Confrontation Clause, Once More." SCOTUSblog RSS. N.p., 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

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Is the child's out-of-court statements to a teacher in response to the teacher's concerns about potential child abuse qualify as “testimonial” statements subject to the Confrontation Clause?


The out-of-court, informal statements made by L.P. to a teacher, who is not a law enforcement officer, are inadmissible in the court of law due to the fact that the statements were not videoed or reviewed prior to the court hearing.