Michigan v. Bryant Case Brief

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 lower court held that the statements were testimonialfor 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.

CONCLUSION

In their decision, the Court noted their previous ruling in Crawford and Davis which held that in order for testimonial evidence to be admissible, the Sixth Amendment demands unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination. The case established that police interrogation, when there is no apparent threat or emergency, is considered as testimonial evidence. Applying this to the present case, the Court held that the victims’ identification and description of the shooter and the location of the shooting were not testimonial statements because they had a primary purpose of enabling police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency. The circumstances lacked any formality that would have alerted the victim to the possible future prosecutorial use of his statements. Taking into consideration the circumstances surrounding the present case, the Court ruled that the admission of the police officer’s statement at Bryant’s trial did not violate the Confrontation Clause .

  • Advocates: Lori B. Palmer Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the petitioner Leondra R. Kruger Acting Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner Peter Jon Van Hoek for the respondent appointed by the Court
  • Petitioner: Michigan
  • Respondent: Richard Perry Bryant
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: Wayne County Circuit Court
Citation: 562 US 344 (2011)
Granted: Mar 1, 2010
Argued: Oct 5, 2010
Decided: Feb 28, 2011
Michigan v. Bryant Case Brief