Giles v. California Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Giles was convicted of first-degree murder after the victim’s prior out-of-court statements were admitted under(2008). The California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction on the ground that Giles had forfeited his right to confront the victim because he had committed the murder for which he was on trial and because his intentional criminal act made the victim unavailable to testify. Certiorari was granted.


“Does 26 U.S.C. 7443A(a) permit the assignment of particularly complex cases dealing with large amounts of money to “special trial judges” appointed by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Tax Court, provided that the special trial judges do not enter the decision but simply prepare an opinion for review and adoption by a regular Tax Court judge? Under the Appointments Clause of Article II Section 2, may Congress permit the Chief Judge of the U.S. Tax Court to appoint “special trial judges” to “any other proceeding which the chief judge may designate”?”


“Yes. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception only applies to situations where the defendant causes the witness’ absence with the intention of preventing that witness from testifying at trial. Without this intention, any act by the defendant making the witness unavailable does not waive that defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the witness, and therefore any out-of-court statements made by the witness are inadmissible as evidence. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion stressing his belief that statements such as those made by the witness in this case should not implicate the Confrontation Clause at all because the police questioning was not a “formalized dialogue.” Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a concurring opinion suggesting that the witness’ statements, in his view, did not fall within the Confrontation Clause but noting that neither party had made this argument before the Court. Justice David Souter, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, concurred in all parts of the majority opinion except one section denouncing the dissenting argument. Justice Souter stated that he did not find the dissent as wrongheaded as the majority suggested.The dissent, written by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy, argued that a defendant loses his right to confrontation when he makes a witness unavailable due to his own wrongdoing, even if he did not act with the specific intention of preventing her from testifying at trial.”

Case Information

Citation: 554 US 353 (2008)
Granted: Jan 11, 2008
Argued: Apr 22, 2008
Decided: Jun 25, 2008
Case Brief: 2008