The Law School Authority

Lilly v. Virginia Case Brief

Summary of Lilly v. Virginia, 527 U.S. 116 (1999)

Relevant Facts: The Df and two others broke into a home and stole items within.  The next day they committed more crimes that escalated as the day continued, ending with kidnaping and murder. They committed more robberies before their apprehension.  The police questioned each of them separately.  Df’s brother claimed that he was only drinking and implicated the other two in the more serious crimes.  The Lilly and the other Df were charged with the serious crimes.  The trials were severed, and the brother asserted his Fifth.  The Ct allowed his prior statements to be admitted over the objections that the admission violated the 6th b/c the declarant had not made a statement against his penal interest, but rather against the others interests.

Legal Issue(s): Whether Df’s Sixth Amendment right to be confronted by witnesses against him was violated by admitting into evidence a nontestifying accomplice’s entire confession that contained statements against his penal interest and other statements that inculpated the Df?

Court’s Holding: Yes, the admission of an untested confession by an accomplice violated the Df’s Confrontational Clause rights.

Procedure: Jury conviction on several serious crimes and Capital Murder–Death; S ct of VA Affirmed; S.Ct reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Law or Rule(s): The accused has the right, under the 6th and 14th Amendments, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, this ensures the reliability of the evidence against a criminal Df by subjecting the evidence to rigorous testing within a judicial proceeding before a fact finder.

Court Rationale: Statements against penal interest fall within three categories: 1) voluntary admissions of the declarant offered against the maker; 2) those offered as exculpatory evidence by a Df who claims that it was the declarant who committed the crime; 3) statements by an accomplice which incriminate a criminal Df.  When a person accuses another of a crime where the declarant stands to gain the accusation is suspect and must be subjected to scrutiny of cross.  An accomplice’s statement against his own penal interest cannot be used against the Df. Williamson.  Precedent holds that an accomplice’s statements that shift blame to a Df fall outside hearsay exceptions that are so trustworthy that adversarial testing would add little to its reliability.  To be admissible under the Confrontational Cl. hearsay evidence used to convict a Df must possess indica of reliability by virtue of its inherent trustworthiness, not be reference to other evidence at trial.  Informing the declarant of his rights under the 5th did not render the circumstances surrounding his statements more trustworthy. The voluntariness of a confession under the 5th does not bear on whether the confession was free of motive, desire, or impulse to implicate another.

Pl’s A: The declarant implicated himself as a participant, and elements of his statement were corroborated by other evidence.  These two indica of reliability coupled with the police giving him his Miranda rights and no promise of leniency guaranteed that his statement was trustworthy.



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