Supreme Court allows children’s indirect testimony in CA Cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that teachers’ reports of child abuse based on conversations with young children can be admitted as testimony, despite a defendant’s constitutional right to confront his accuser.

The unanimous judgment came in the case of a 3½-year-old Ohio boy whose wounds were visible to teachers at his day care center. Upon questioning, he said his mother’s boyfriend was to blame.

Although the boy was too young to testify reliably in court, the teachers’ reports were admitted at trial, resulting in Darius Clark’s conviction and 28-year prison sentence. Clark was sprung in 2012 when Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that allowing the teachers’ testimony violated his constitutional rights under the 6th Amendment’s confrontation clause.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court’s majority, said that the teachers’ “primary purpose” in asking about the abuse was not to help the prosecution, so allowing their testimony did not violate Clark’s constitutional rights.

When police take children’s statements out of court and present it as testimony at trial, it can violate the confrontation clause. But in this case, Alito said, the child spoke to teachers immediately after his wounds were discovered, in an emergency setting on school grounds — not in preparing courtroom testimony.

The ruling stopped short of saying that all such statements, delivered to people not associated with law enforcement, are admissible in court.

Educators’ groups applauded the decision allowing teachers to protect their students. “This case could have had a chilling effect on teacher-student interactions,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “Teachers aren’t cops. To confuse those two roles could have hampered educators’ ability to help their students.”

Ohio, supported by the federal government and 42 other states, had contended that an adverse ruling would make it more difficult to prosecute child abuse when the child is the only witness but cannot testify in court. They said teachers should not be equated in those cases with police.

Attorneys for Clark argued that they should get equal access to the boy before statements made to the other side are allowed in court. Only then can the reliability of the child’s story be tested, they said.

Woman Records Alleged Child Abuse, Shares On FB

.jpg photo of woman reporting Child Abuse
Rachael Bellamy

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Authorities in Texas are investigating after a woman recorded a stranger abusing a child and then posted the video to social media, reports CBS DFW.

“That child was abused. And I needed to be able to show that,”

Rachael Bellamy, who recorded the incident on her cell phone, told the station. “She took her hands, grabbed the child by the face, squeezed it tight. The child started to cry and some rice came out of his mouth.”

Bellamy said she is still disturbed by what she saw in a Grand Prairie restaurant.

“I just keep picturing that sweet baby’s face,” she said.

Bellamy’s decision to make the video public, however, has some people questioning whether it was the right thing to do.

“We would encourage people not to report crimes, especially in progress in this case, through a social media platform,” Grand Prairie police spokesperson Lyle Gensler told the station. “It kind of could ruin our investigation once we start looking into it.”

Bellamy told CBS DFW she decided to record and post the incident because she didn’t want to confront the woman and “it’s the quickest way to get results and to spread any sort of message or get any kind of help you need.”

Gensler disagrees, according to the station, and says Good Samaritans should call police.

Bellamy said if the situation arises again, she will call 911 — but she doesn’t regret what she did.

“This isn’t about shaming the woman. It’s about getting help for the child,” she said.

According to the station, authorities have not yet determined if any abuse actually happened. The case will likely be forward to Child Protective Services.