March 22, 2011
On February 28, 2011, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Michigan v. Bryant. This case concerns statements made by a gunshot victim to responding police officers. In those statements the victim identified the defendant as the shooter. Shortly thereafter the victim died, but his statements to the police were nevertheless introduced at the defendant's trial and the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the admission of the deceased victim's statements violated the defendant’s rights under the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause.
By a vote of 6 to 2, the Court held that admission of the victim's statements did not violate the requirements of the Confrontation Clause. The primary purpose of the statements, the majority stated, was to help police meet an ongoing emergency. As a result, the statements were not testimonial and did not violate the defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause. Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito joined.
Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justices Scalia and Ginsburg each filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
To discuss the case, we have Michael B. Brennan, who is a partner at Gass Weber Mullins LLC.