On Thursday, June 18 the Supreme Court upheld the use of a child’s comments to a mandatory child abuse reporter (a teacher) in the trial of his abuser.  The ruling Ohio V Clark  was 9 to 0 with Justice Alito writing the main opinion with a separate opinion by Thomas and a third opinion by Scalia and Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court ruling involved, “Darius Clark

[who] sent his girlfriend away to engage in prostitution while he cared for her 3-year-old son L. P. and 18-month-old daughter A. T. When L. P.’s preschool teachers noticed marks on his body, he identified Clark as his abuser.  Clark was subsequently tried on multiple counts related to the abuse of both children.  At trial, the State introduced L. P.’s statements to his teachers as evidence of Clark’s guilt, but L. P. did not testify.”

The Ohio courts, including the state Supreme Court threw out the child abuse conviction which had resulted in a criminal sentence of more than twenty years for Clark. The state courts upheld the defendant’s motion to exclude the child’s statements via the mandatory reporter under the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause.

The confrontation clause provides the right to face your accuser.  The prosecutor had entered as evidence the child’s comments because in Ohio children under ten do not generally testify.  Justice Alito, held that the child’s discussion to the teacher was not testimonial and didn’t trigger the confrontation clause.  Alito wrote:

“Mandatory reporting obligations do not convert a conversation between a concerned teacher and her student into a law enforcement mission aimed at gathering evidence for prosecution.  It is irrelevant that the teachers’ questions and their duty to report the matter had the natural tendency to result in Clark’s prosecution. “