U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Gives Convicted Lawyer a Second Chance to Exclude Accuser’s Tape

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled its criminal procedure decisions can be applied retroactively under state laws or constitutions, even when federal courts follow a different standard, SCOTUSblog reports.

The court ruled in the case of Stephen Danforth, a lawyer who was convicted of child molestation based partly on a videotaped interview with his 6-year-old accuser. Danforth said the tape should have been excluded under the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision on the right to cross-examination in Crawford v. Washington, but the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled Crawford did not apply retroactively to cover Danforth’s case.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion issued today in Danforth v. Minnesota (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog). Even though the Supreme Court concludes a decision is not retroactive under the principals of Teague v. Lane, it “does not imply that there was no right and thus no violation of that right at the time of trial—only that no remedy will be provided in federal habeas courts,” Stevens said.

“The question in this case is whether Teague constrains the authority of state courts to give broader effect to new rules of criminal procedure than is required by that opinion. We have never suggested that it does, and now hold that it does not.”

The case now goes back to the Minnesota Supreme Court for a determination whether the state’s laws or constitution will allow Danforth to claim Sixth Amendment protection under Crawford.

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