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Maryland v. Craig
|Maryland v. Craig|
Supreme Court of the United States
| Argued April 18, 1990|
Decided June 27, 1990
|Testimony by an alleged child sex abuse victim via closed-circuit television did not violate the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses. Maryland Court of Appeals judgment vacated and remanded.|
|U.S. Const. Amend. VI|
Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause , which provides criminal defendants with the right to confront witnesses against them, did not bar the use of one-way closed-circuit television to present testimony by an alleged child sex abuse victim.
The child was reportedly unable to testify in the physical presence of the defendant due to severe emotional trauma. The trial court set her up in a separate room with the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, so that the defendant and jury could only see her testify via the live television screen in the courtroom, and she could not see them. The defendant was convicted, and the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated by the use of the transmitted testimony, because the Confrontation Clause guaranteed face-to-face confrontation. The Supreme Court reversed the Maryland high court, reinstating the conviction.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority, ruling that the Confrontation Clause merely embodies a "preference" for face-to-face, in person confrontation, which may be limited to satisfy sufficiently important interests. Because the child witness was cross-examined by the defendant's attorney and her general demeanor was visible in the courtroom, the defendant had a constitutionally sufficient opportunity to test her credibility and the substance of her testimony before the jury.
Craig came shortly after the Court had invalidated the use of a screen to hide a similarly situated child witness/victim in Coy v. Iowa . The Court distinguished Coy by the total obstruction from sight of the witness in that case; the television transmission, by contrast, was not considered a substantial obstruction of the jury's ability to observe the child testifying.
Justice Antonin Scalia, in dissent, wrote that he was "persuaded...that the Maryland procedure is virtually constitutional. Since it is not, however, actually constitutional I would affirm the judgment of the Maryland Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of conviction."
Many states subsequently declined to follow Craig's reasoning when applying their own comparable constitutional provisions. Some state constitutions furthermore expressly require confrontation to be "face to face", and so criminal defendants in those states will have the benefit of the broader state protections.
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