Saturday, June 16, 2007

Confrontation Clause Violated in Domestic Violence Case

Panel of First Court of Appeals Throws Out Domestic Violence Conviction Obtained Without Victim's Live Testimony at Trial

Zapata v. State (5/17/2007) (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] May 17, 2007, petition for discretionary review filed)(Jennings)(criminal case, DV)

In this appeal of a criminal domestic violence case, a gender-mixed panel of the First Court of Appeals reverses a man's conviction for assault on his wife. The court finds that the investigating officer's testimony about the complainant's out-of-court statements at the scene of the incident should have been excluded, and that the admission of the evidence was harmful because it was the only evidence supporting the elements of the charged offense. The investigating officer had not witnessed the assault and the complainant herself did not testify.

The opinion explains the difference between testimonial and non-testimonial statements, and under which conditions out-of-court statements made by a complainant at the scene may be admitted even though the complainant does not testify at trial and is not subject to cross-examination.

Disposition: Reverse trial court judgment and remand case for further proceedings.
Opinion author: Justice Terry Jennings
Panel Members: Chief Justice Sherry Radack, Justices Terry Jennings and Jane Bland
Appeals Court Cause No.: 01-06-00286-CR
Full style of case: Jose Raynundo Zapata v. The State of Texas
Appeal from Co Crim Ct at Law No 8 of Harris County

Legal lingo: domestic violence, DV, assault, hearsay testimony, testimonial and nontestimonial witness statements, confrontation clause, cross-examination , right to cross-examine accuser, complainant

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