The Price of Silence: The Prosecution of Domestic Violence Cases in Light of Crawford v. Washington – Note by Jeanine Percival

From Volume 79, Number 1 (November 2005)
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A woman calls 911 and says, “Please. I need an ambulance. My husband just attacked me and I’m eight months pregnant. He hit me in the stomach and I’m bleeding. I think I’m losing the baby.” The home is located outside a small town. When the police and ambulance arrive after some time, the wife is unconscious at the bottom of a staircase and the woman’s husband is there, claiming to have just arrived home to find his wife in this condition.

The wife has bruises all over her body and the baby is lost, but shortly after being admitted to the hospital and regaining consciousness, she flees and is nowhere to be found. There are no witnesses, and the husband insists the wife fell down the stairs. The husband has no prior domestic violence convictions, but the wife’s medical history reveals a number of other “accidental injuries.” The wife has no friends and has not spoken to her family since the couple married two years ago. Her coworkers can testify that they suspected the husband was abusive. They can also testify that the wife was not allowed to drive, spend money, or attend social events.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s March 2004 decision in Crawford v. Washington, the wife’s 911 call would likely have been admitted in court under a hearsay exception and used to secure the husband’s conviction. But following Crawford, if the wife could not be brought into court, the statement would be inadmissible. Given that there is no evidence besides the 911 call that directly implicates the husband as the cause of the wife’s injuries, prosecutors would be unlikely even to file a case against the husband, let alone convict him.


 

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