COY v. IOWA

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
86-6757
Appellee 
Iowa
Appellant 
John Coy
Advocates
(by appointment of the Court, argued the cause for the appellant)
(Deputy Attorney General of Iowa, argued the cause for appellee)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

John Coy was tried in an Iowa court for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls. When the girls were testifying against Coy, the court placed a large screen in front of him so that the girls would not have to see him. The jury proceeded to convict him. Coy argued that Iowa Code 910A, which provides for the use of a screen in child sexual abuse cases, violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers face-to-face. He also claimed that the code violated his right to due process, since having a screen placed between him and the girls made him appear guilty before he was properly tried. The trial court dismissed these claims and the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed.

Question 

Does a defendant have the right to confront his alleged victims "face-to-face" under the Sixth Amendment if they testify against him before a jury?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Coy, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Right to Confront and Cross-Examine, Compulsory Process

Yes. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion of a 6-2 court. The Sixth Amendment explicitly states that the accused has the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." The Court maintained this "confrontation is essential to fairness." The screen clearly disrupted this confrontation in a way that could have biased the trial. While acknowledging that "face-to-face presence may, unfortunately, upset the truthful rape victim or abused child," the Court insisted that "by the same token it may confound and undo the false accuser, or reveal the child coached by a malevolent adult." A trial court cannot abridge the right to confrontation using a generalized law, and in Coy's case no specific reason was given for using a screen.

Cite this Page
COY v. IOWA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_6757>.
COY v. IOWA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_6757 (last visited September 27, 2014).
"COY v. IOWA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 27, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_6757.