Ohio v. Roberts Case Brief

Summary of Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980)

Facts: D was charged with forgery of a check in the name of some Bernard Issacs. At preliminary hearing, D’s attorney examined Bernard’s daughter and blamed her for giving the check to D with the understanding that she had the authority to use it. The daughter refused this. During trial, daughter disappeared and D made the argument that daughter had given him the check. Prosecution tried to admit into evidence preliminary hearing testimony but D claimed violation of confrontation clause and court sided with D.

Issue: Could the preliminary hearing testimony have been used?

Holding: Yes

Rule: “When a hearsay declarant is not present for cross-examination at trial, the Confrontation Clause normally requires a showing that he is unavailable. Even then, his statement is admissible only if it bears adequate indicia of reliability. Reliability can be inferred without more in a case where evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception. In other cases, the evidence must be excluded, at least absent a showing of particularized guarantees of trustworthiness."

Holding: Here, the daughter was under oath and the environment was trial-like when she testified at the preliminary hearing. Furthermore, the D’s attorney had the opportunity to examine the daughter and he used this opportunity. Reliability of the statements is thus established and even though the statement doesn’t fit under any of the exceptions to hearsay, it is still admissible.

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