Crawford v. Commonwealth

Sarah Crawford ended an abusive relationship with her husband but remained fearful of him and took various precautions to protect herself, including applying for an order of protection.  She signed an affidavit for the order, in which she recounted instances of past abuse, including threats to her life.  The following month, she was found murdered and evidence overwhelmingly pointed to her ex-husband.  Before the trial, Crawford made a motion to suppress the affidavit, arguing that the document was testimonial hearsay.  However, the trial court admitted the affidavit, holding that under the doctrine of “forfeiture by wrongdoing,” Crawford forfeited his right to confrontation with respect to statements by Sarah.  The trial court agreed and a redacted version of the affidavit was admitted.  A jury convicted Crawford of capital murder, abduction with intent to defile, rape, grand larceny, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, and use of a firearm in the commission of abduction.  Crawford appealed, arguing, inter alia, that admission of the affidavit violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The appellate court reversed every conviction except for the grand larceny conviction on grounds that Crawford’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated by the admission of the affidavit. The Virginia Supreme Court held that the admission of the affidavit of a victim in support of her application for a preliminary protective order against defendant was testimonial and therefore violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. It also held the trial court could not admit the affidavit under the “forfeiture by wrongdoing” doctrine because there was no evidence that the defendant killed the victim to prevent the victim from testifying. However, it found that the admission of the affidavit was harmless since the other evidence against Crawford was overwhelming.



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