MICHIGAN v. BRYANT

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
09-150
Petitioner 
Michigan
Respondent 
Richard Perry Bryant
Decided By 
Advocates
(Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the petitioner)
(Acting Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner)
(for the respondent appointed by the Court)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A Michigan trial court convicted Richard Perry Bryant of second degree murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. On appeal, Mr. Bryant challenged the admission of the victim's statements at trial for violating his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. The victim stated that Mr. Bryant shot him, but died shortly thereafter. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statements that the victim made to police before his death were testimonial and their admission violated Mr. Bryant's right to confrontation. The court reasoned that the victim's statements were made in the course of a police interrogation whose primary purpose was to establish or prove events that had already occurred, not to enable police to meet an ongoing emergency. Therefore, the statements were "testimonial" for the purposes of the enhanced confrontation protections set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington and should not have been admitted against Mr. Bryant at trial because he did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the victim prior to his death.

Question 

Are inquiries of wounded victims concerning the perpetrator non-testimonial if they objectively indicate that the purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency, and, thus, not afforded heightened protection under Crawford v. Washington?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Michigan, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Sixth Amendment: confrontation clause

Yes. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court decision in a majority opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The court held that the identification and description of the shooter and the location of the shooting were "not testimonial statements because they had a 'primary purpose . . . to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency.' Therefore, their admission at Bryant's trial did not violate the Confrontation Clause." Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

In a strongly-worded dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the majority opinion for distorting "our confrontation clause jurisprudence and leav[ing] it in a shambles. Instead of clarifying the law, the court makes itself the obfuscator of last resort.” The majority, he continued, “creates an expansive exception to the confrontation clause for violent crimes.” In a separate dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with Scalia, but observed a "well-established exception to the confrontation requirement: The cloak protecting the accused against admission of out-of-court testimonial statements was removed for dying declarations."

Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the consideration of the case.

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MICHIGAN v. BRYANT. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 04 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2009_09_150>.
MICHIGAN v. BRYANT, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2009_09_150 (last visited April 4, 2014).
"MICHIGAN v. BRYANT," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 4, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2009_09_150.