Skip to content
Name: Michigan v. Bryant
Case #: 09-150
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/28/2011
Subsequent History: 131 S.Ct. 1143; 179 L.Ed.2d 93

A dying witness’s statements providing the description and location of a suspect were not testimonial within the meaning of Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, because their primary purpose was to assist police in an ongoing emergency, and therefore they did not violate the confrontation clause. Before the victim of a shooting died, he told responding officers that appellant had shot him. The victim’s statements were admitted at trial, but the state supreme court reversed, finding a Sixth Amendment violation under Davis v. Washington (2006) 547 U.S. 813, which held that statements made to police to assist in an ongoing emergency are not testimonial, but those relating to past events when there is no continuing emergency are testimonial. In this case, the High Court reiterated that the main inquiry in deciding whether statements are testimonial is to determine the primary purpose of the questioning. The Court then clarified the concept of an “ongoing emergency.” An emergency can be ongoing even though the crime is completed. This requires an objective assessment from the perspective of the parties involved, and will depend on the circumstances, taking into account “the type and scope of the danger posed to the victim, the police, and the public”, and factors such as the weapon used and whether there is a possibility the suspect will strike again. “This logic is not unlike that justifying the excited utterance exception in hearsay law.” Here, police found a man bleeding to death at a gas station. They did not know when and where the shooting happened, who the suspect was and whether he posed a continuing danger to them or the public. The nature of their questions was to assess the situation. Thus, the statements fall within the Davis exception. (J. Scalia dissented. He opined the statements should not have been admissible because the police were investigating a crime when the victim said that appellant had shot him. J. Ginsburg also dissented.)