Maryland v. Craig

PETITIONER: Maryland
RESPONDENT: Craig
LOCATION: Circuit Court for Howard County

DOCKET NO.: 89-478
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Maryland Court of Appeals

CITATION: 497 US 836 (1990)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1990

ADVOCATES:
J. Joseph Curran, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioner
William H. Murphy, Jr. - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Sandra Ann Craig, the operator of a kindergarten and pre-school facility, was accused of sexually abusing a six-year-old child. Over Craig's objections, a trial court allowed the alleged child victim to testify via one-way closed circuit television. The child testified outside the courtroom while Mrs. Craig, through electronic communication with her lawyer, could make objections. The judge and jury also viewed the testimony in the courtroom. This was done in order to avoid the possibility of serious emotional distress for the child witness. The trial court convicted Craig, but the Maryland high court reversed.

Question

Did the closed-circuit testimony violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment?

Media for Maryland v. Craig

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1990 in Maryland v. Craig

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 89-478, Maryland against Sandra Ann Craig.

General Curran.

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

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

The issue before the Court this morning is: Was Sandra Craig denied her right of confrontation when our trial judge allowed four child victim witnesses, aged four, five and six, to testify at the trial by way of a one-way closed circuit television, a procedure that had been authorized by the Maryland statute?

Or was the right to confront satisfied because the children, who were determined to be functionally unavailable, testified under oath, were the subject of unrestricted cross-examination and were able to be seen by the judge and the jury on the monitors as to their credibility and reliability?

Permit me, if I might, share with you the facts in our case.

In the fall of 1986 Mrs. Craig was charged with several counts... several instances of sexual and physical child abuse.

Prior to the trial, in March of 1987, the trial court held a two-day motion hearing on whether or not the section of our statute should be implemented permitting the use of the one-way closed circuit television.

At that two-day hearing, five separate experts were called who testified in child-specific detail as to their recommendations and their opinions as to whether the children would be able to testify in the presence of the defendant, or whether they would be better able to testify out of the presence of the defendant, by way of our procedure.

Byron R. White:

But each... each psychiatrist just testified about a single child or--

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

No, Justice, there were five different experts.

And I might add there were psychologists, child therapists--

Byron R. White:

--But did they all testify about all the children?

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

--No, sir, only those children that they had under therapy for several weeks... several months.

Byron R. White:

So it sounds like there was only one... one expert for each child, is that it?

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

Well, in truth, one expert had three children.

Byron R. White:

Okay.

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

Another had two.

And the others had, as I recall, one each.

Byron R. White:

All right.

Thank you.

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

But no one had... had everyone.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

General Curran, I thought that the... the trial court finding was made in accordance with the language of the statute in Maryland, that the testimony of each of the children in a courtroom would result in the child suffering serious emotional distress, and that the children could not reasonably communicate in a courtroom?

Now that was the finding that was made?

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

That is correct, Justice O'Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

All right.

Now, is... is it necessary that the focus be on whether the children could testify in the presence of the defendant?

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

In truth, Justice O'Connor, if you will review the joint appendix, you will find that each of the five experts, when testifying about their respective child patient, testified with specificity that it was the presence of Mrs. Craig that they were seriously emotionally distressed by.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, that may well be, but was that the finding of the trial court?

J. Joseph Curran, Jr.:

The trial court, Justice, as you rightly observe, did in fact track the exact words of the statute--