As explained in my previous post, in the first section of People v. Goldstein, the Court concluded that the admission of the opinion of Dr. Hegerty, a forensic psychiatrist offered by the state, which was based upon her interviews with third parties, was admissible pursuant to People v. Stone and People v. Sugden.
However, the Court then considered the issue of whether the admission of the interviewees' statements violated Mr. Goldstein's constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him. In making this determination, the Court applied the standards set forth in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), which overruled Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980). Crawford established that the Confrontation Clause generally prohibits the use of testimonial hearsay against a defendant, even if the hearsay has been found to be reliable, unless the defendant is given the opportunity to cross-examine the out-of-court declarants.
The Court concluded that the interviewees' statements constituted hearsay despite the prosecution's assertion that the statements were not offered to establish their truth. The People argued that the statements were not evidence themselves, but rather were admitted to assist the jury in its evaluation of Hegerty's opinion. The Court rejected this argument and stated that "(t)he distinction between a statement offered for its truth and a statement offered to shed light on an expert's opinion is not meaningful in this context."
The Court then turned to the issue of whether the hearsay statements were "testimonial" as that term was explained in Crawford and stated that:
Crawford explained that the Confrontation Clause "applies to 'witnesses' against [*7]the accused — in other words, those who 'bear testimony.'" (541 US at 51). The Court added: "'Testimony,' in turn, is typically '[a] solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact.' . . . An accuser who makes a formal statement to government officers bears testimony in a sense that a person who makes a casual remark to an acquaintance does not."
The Court concluded that the statements made to Hegerty were testimonial, since she was an agent of the State who was engaged in trial preparation and thus the statements were the equivalent of "formal" statements made to "government officers." The Court noted that the "Confrontation Clause would offer too little protection if it could be avoided by assigning the job of interviewing witnesses to an independent contractor rather than an employee." Accordingly, it held that Mr. Goldstein's rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated when the lower court permitted Hegerty to testify as to the interviewees' statements in spite of Mr. Goldstein's inability to cross-examine said witnesses. The Court concluded that the error was not harmless and ordered a new trial.
Thus, the Court interpreted the term "testimonial" quite broadly. And, as suggested by Eric at Indignent Indigent, the term as defined "should cover most statements by witnesses to police officers during a criminal investigation, autopsy reports... and any number of other statements made under express questioning by law enforcement agents."