Facts of the Case
A father whose child had died of shaken baby syndrome was tried in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, an Ohio trial court, for involuntary manslaughter. The father’s defense was that the child’s babysitter was guilty. The babysitter informed the court in advance of testifying that she intended to assert her privilege against self-incrimination under the
May a witness who claims no involvement in a crime assert a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination?
Yes. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that, while the self-incrimination privilege’s protection only extended to witnesses who had reasonable cause to apprehend danger from a direct answer, the babysitter’s expression of innocence did not by itself eliminate the babysitter’s privilege and that the grant of immunity was thus not an error. The opinion stated that the defense’s theory of the case was that Batt, not [Reiner], was responsible for Alex’s death… . In this setting, it was reasonable for Batt to fear that answers to possible questions might tend to incriminate her. Batt therefore had a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
- Citation: 532 US 17 (2001)
- Decided Mar 19, 2001