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Name: Giles v. California
Case #: Jul-53
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Citation: 554 U.S. 353
Summary

California’s forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine is not an exception to the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. At Giles’ murder trial, the court admitted statements that the murder victim had made to a police officer responding to a domestic violence call. Following conviction, while Giles’ appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Crawford v. Washington, which held that the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause gives defendants the right to cross examine witness testimony except in cases where an exception to the confrontation right was recognized at the founding. The state appellate court concluded that here the trial court could admit the evidence under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing. (i.e. that Giles had forfeited his right to confront the victim because he killed her.) The California Supreme Court affirmed on the same ground. The United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The California Supreme Court’s theory of forfeiture by wrondoing is not an exception to the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation right because it was not an exception established at the founding (or in the next 200 years). The state courts did not consider Giles’ intent because they found it irrelevant considering the application of the forfeiture doctrine. However, Giles’ intent was relevant because a defendant’s prior abuse or threats of abuse which were intended to dissuade the victim from getting help is relevant to determine the intent of his act causing the witness’ absence. Remand was required so the court could consider Giles’ intent.

Opinion Date: 06/25/2008