Kentucky v. Stincer

LOCATION: Highway 80, Solano County, California

DOCKET NO.: 86-572
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: Kentucky Supreme Court

CITATION: 482 US 730 (1987)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1987

Mark A. Posnansky - on behalf of Respondent
Penny R. Warren - on behalf of Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Kentucky v. Stincer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1987 in Kentucky v. Stincer

William H. Rehnquist:

Mrs. Warren, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Penny R. Warren:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case arises from the conviction of Stincer by a jury for first degree oral sodomy of two girls ages seven and eight.

Both girls and a four year old boy testified at trial in Stincer's presence.

All three described how he blindfolded them with socks and said he was feeding them a pickle.

The question in the case, whether he was denied his right of confrontation arises from an in chambers preliminary hearing in which the judge determined whether or not the children were competent to testify.

Stincer asked to personally attend that hearing.

His request was denied.

But counsel was present.

On appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that Stincer had an absolute right to be present at the competency hearing.

From the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 11, of the Kentucky Constitution confrontation clauses.

This Court granted Kentucky's request for review.

It is our position that the state court erroneously extended the right of confrontation in the Sixth Amendment to a non-adversarial preliminary hearing and that Stincer fails to meet the threshold requirements of due process for a right of presence under that clause.

We also believe that the state court erred by refusing to consider whether the alleged claims were harmless.

It's first necessary to consider the nature of a competency hearing in Kentucky and in most other jurisdictions.

At this competency exam of the two girls that is in issue, it's a very limited hearing with a very limited purpose.

There are no facts of the case discussed.

Guilt or innocence is not an issue.

There are only a dozen or so general questions.

How old are you?

Where do you live?

Where do you go to school?

Where do you go to Sunday School?

Do you know your teacher's names?

The test is whether the children understand the difference between a truth and a lie, the obligation to tell the truth, and whether they are sufficiently intelligent to recall and relate past facts.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mrs. Warren, you refer to this as a preliminary hearing?

Penny R. Warren:

Yes, Your Honor.

William H. Rehnquist:

I take it from the way you describe it.

It isn't the sort of preliminary hearing that one had in Arizona xxx where it's to decide whether you should be bound over for trial.

Penny R. Warren:

No, Your Honor, I meant preliminary only in that--