US Supreme Court Expands Witnesses Allowed To Testify Against Child Abusers

Ohio Mother leaves Son, three years old, and Daughter, eighteen months old, in the care of her Boyfriend. Boyfriend allegedly physically abuses Son and Daughter, leaving visible injuries on their persons.

Son’s preschool teachers question Son about who caused the injuries they saw. Son answers with Boyfriend’s nickname.

At the criminal trial against Boyfriend, Son’s teachers testify as to their conversation with Son. Son is not allowed to testify himself because of his age.

Boyfriend is convicted of child abuse of both Son and Daughter … and sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison.

On appeal, Boyfriend attacks his conviction on the grounds that the schoolteachers’ testimony was inadmissible hearsay and Boyfriend was denied his right to confront his accuser, Son.

The Ohio Supreme Court agrees with Boyfriend and overturns his conviction.

On further appeal, however, the United States Supreme Court holds that school teachers may testify in criminal trials of alleged child abusers as to what a child told the teacher in conversations primarily intended to protect the child, rather than to prosecute the alleged child abuser.

The high court’s rationale is that the children’s statements were taken in emergency situations, for the purpose of protecting them – and not by law enforcement officers with the intention of making a criminal case against the alleged perpetrator.

In both family court and juvenile dependency court (where it is decided whether to place or maintain children in foster care), there are also restrictions on children testifying directly and on who is permitted to testify about what children said to them.

This Supreme Court ruling will likely have ramifications in family courts and juvenile dependency courts regarding who may testify in child custody (parenting responsibility) and visitation (timesharing) cases as to what children told them.