Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990)

Craig was convicted in a Maryland state court for sexually abusing a child. During the trial the judge permitted the girl to testify out of court on a one-way closed-circuit television pursuant to a state statute that permitted this procedure in cases in which the trial judge finds that the child would suffer trauma if she were required to testify in court in the presence of the defendant. The issue was whether this procedure violated the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause. In upholding the conviction (five to four), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the procedure did not violate Craig’s confrontation rights.

The Court observed that the clause’s primary purpose is to ensure the reliability of evidence by subjecting it to rigorous adversarial testing. In furtherance of this purpose the confrontation right encompasses several rights such as physical presence in court and cross-examination, but does not include an absolute right to face-to-face confrontation with a witness. Instead, an arrangement such as the one used in this case is acceptable when necessary to further an important government policy and the other aspects of the confrontation right, such as cross-examination, are preserved. Protecting a child from the trauma that might result from testifying in court is a sufficiently important interest so long as there was evidence to support the judge’s findings regarding that child. Inasmuch as the trial judge in this case made the specific findings as required by the statute and the other aspects of the confrontation right were protected, the procedure did not violate the confrontation clause.

STEVEN B. DOW

References and Further Reading

  • Cecchettini–Whaley, Gail D., Note: Children as Witnesses After Maryland v. Craig, Southern California Law Review 65 (1992): 1993–2037.
  • Goodhue, George K., Comment: Maryland v. Craig: Balancing Sixth Amendment Confrontation Rights With the Rights of Child Witnesses in Sexual Abuse Trials, New England Law Review 26 (1991): 497–528.
  • LaFave, Wayne R., Jerold H. Israel, and Nancy J. King. Criminal Procedure, 4th ed. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/ West, 2004.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Maryland Courts and Judicial Procedure Code Annotated Section 9-102 (1989)
  • U.S. Constitution, Amendment VI

See also Confrontation Clause; Defense, Right to Present

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