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Judge Allows Incriminating Text Messages Between Spouses in Child Abuse Trial

Posted Feb 16, 2012 9:01 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that incriminating text messages between a husband and wife may be used as evidence in the woman’s child abuse trial.

Judge Richard Walsh of Franklin County ruled the spousal communications privilege does not apply in criminal child abuse cases, the Legal Intelligencer reports. Walsh said the defendant, Michele Renae Hunter of Chambersburg, Pa., had no expectation of privacy in the texts because they would have been admissible in hearings before Children and Youth Services.

The text messages had described injuries sustained by Hunter’s 4-year-old stepson before he was taken to the hospital, the story says. He suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage. Hunter is charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Walsh said Pennsylvania was one of only seven U.S. jurisdictions that had not repealed the communications privilege in all child abuse cases.

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