What about Carol's Sixth Amendment right to "confront her accusers in a criminal case," which is known as the Confrontation Clause. In essence, it holds that if someone accuses you of a crime, you have a right to know who that person is -- and you have a right to confront that person via cross-examination at trial. Historically, the Confrontation Clause has been considered fairly important in the U.S. justice system; it prevents an anonymous individual from accusing someone of a crime and then hiding from the consequences of making an accusation that might be false.
But that is exactly what is happening in Carol's case -- and it suggests that word of the Confrontation Clause, proposed to Congress in 1789, has not reached outposts such as Springfield, Missouri.
Charging documents in Carol's case suggest she allegedly trespassed and committed two acts of "assault" on law enforcement officers -- one by "barreling headfirst" into Officer Debi Wade, and one by pushing Officer Jeremy Lynn after he had burst through the door of our duplex apartment to begin an unlawful eviction. But the Probable Cause (PC) Statement and Misdemeanor Information (MI), taken together, tell a curious story. In fact, the two documents conflict wildly.
In the MI, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson charges Carol with trespass and states evidence to support the charge will be in the PC Statement. Just one problem: The PC Statement says not one word about trespass. In other words, the charge has zero evidence to support it, and by law, must be dismissed. (More on that in an upcoming post.)
In the PC Statement, Officer Debi Wade claims Carol "barreled headfirst" into her, and that is laughably false. (I saw the interaction between Carol and Officer Wade from about 15 feet away.) But regardless of what I think (and know) about Wade's claim, PA Patterson doesn't think much of it either. He doesn't charge Carol with it, so that is out the window already.
That leaves only the allegation that Carol pushed Officer Jeremy Lynn, which also is laughably false. (I saw that interaction from about five feet away.) But problems with that charge go way beyond its falsity. Consider these words from Officer Wade's PC Statement:
Upon initial contact in the entryway of the residence, Roger's wife, Carol T. Shuler, physically assaulted Capt. Jeremy Lynn. I was not witness to that assault, however, I was advised that Carol first pushed the door from inside when Capt. Lynn attempted entry with the key, then got physical with him once inside the threshold and repeatedly pushed him.
Notice what is happening here: Wade admits she did not witness these events, but claims an unknown person -- someone who apparently has no name -- "advised" her of what happened. This amounts to what might be called "sub-hearsay." It likely would be inadmissible hearsay for someone with a name -- say, Officer Joe Jones -- to "advise" Wade of what happened. But this is worse than hearsay; as we noted in an earlier post, it's like being accused of a crime by a "ghost," someone from the spirit world who cannot be seen, heard, or identified by name.
On the surface, this notion is so absurd as to be almost comical. But it's serious business; Carol has been arrested and incarcerated twice -- and faces bogus criminal charges that could send her to jail for a year -- based on the word of a ghost. And it might be the most blatant violation of Sixth Amendment rights in the history of the United States.
Has Carol had an opportunity to "confront her accuser"? Hell, she doesn't even know his or her name.
Typically, the right to confront your accuser involves cross-examination at trial, and Carol's case has not reached that point. But Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), one of the best-known Sixth Amendment cases in modern history, makes it clear the Confrontation Clause goes beyond trial proceedings. From Crawford:
The text of the Confrontation Clause reflects this focus. It applies to "witnesses" against the accused — in other words, those who "bear testimony. . . . " An accuser who makes a formal statement to government officers bears testimony in a sense that a person who makes a casual remark to an acquaintance does not. The constitutional text, like the history underlying the common-law right of confrontation, thus reflects an especially acute concern with a specific type of out-of-court statement.
Various formulations of this core class of "testimonial" statements exist: "ex parte in-court testimony or its functional equivalent — that is, material such as affidavits, custodial examinations, prior testimony that the defendant was unable to cross-examine, or similar pretrial statements that declarants would reasonably expect to be used prosecutorially, . . . statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial, . . . "
Statements taken by police officers in the course of interrogations are also testimonial under even a narrow standard. Police interrogations bear a striking resemblance to examinations by justices of the peace in England. The statements are not sworn testimony, but the absence of oath was not dispositive.
Let's review what happened in Carol's case, based on the standard set out in Crawford:
(1) Someone made a formal statement to a government officer, "bearing testimony" against Carol;
(2) It was in an affidavit, a form of ex parte testimony to which the Sixth Amendment applies;
(3) It reasonably is expected to be used "prosecutorially," at a later trial.
(4) It was a statement taken by a police officer in the course of interrogations.
The term "at a later trial" indicates the Confrontation Clause applies to pre-trial activities, including the filing of an affidavit, such as a PC Statement. For good measure, a Missouri case styled State v. Stewart (MO Ct. of App., 2009), borrows from Crawford to drive home the same point. From Stewart:
Finally, while "[t]he Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause provides that, '[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him,'" Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 42 (2004), that safeguard applies only if the out-of-court statement was "testimonial" in nature. The Court in Crawford did not give a "comprehensive definition of 'testimonial'" but stated that "it applies at a minimum to prior testimony at a preliminary hearing, before a grand jury, or at a former trial; and to police interrogations."
Bottom line: The Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause ensures that you cannot be accused of a crime by a "ghost." Your accuser must be identified, even in pre-trial documents, and that has not happened in Carol's case. It means she never should have been arrested (twice), incarcerated (twice), or subjected to any criminal proceedings.
It's had to imagine anyone's Sixth Amendment rights ever being battered in a more flagrant fashion. Judge Margaret Holdem Palmietto should have dismissed the case against Carol and issued sanctions against the cops and prosecutors responsible for it. That hasn't happened yet, but it had better happen soon. The law demands it.