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Name: Winzer v. Hall
Case #: 06-55327
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 07/23/2007

Admission of victims’ statements violated appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation.

Appellant was convicted by a jury on two counts of terrorist threats for saying “I’ll smoke you and your daughter” while appearing to indicate he had a gun. The statement and gesture were proved at trial via testimony by police officers who interviewed the two victims at their home more than five hours after appellant left. The state court concluded that the victims’ statements to the officers fell under the spontaneous statement exception to the hearsay rule. The victim mother did not appear at trial; the victim daughter did not recall the threat and did not see the gesture. In this appeal from the denial of his federal habeas petition, appellant contended that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated. The appellate court held that Crawford v. Washington did not apply because it was decided after appellant’s trial and appeal. However, federal law before Crawford mandates reversal. The state court erred when it found that the statements were spontaneous; they were made hours after the event after an opportunity to reflect. Because the statements fell under no other exception and had no other guarantee of truthfulness, their admission violated the Confrontation Clause. The error was prejudicial because the statements were the only evidence of the threat.