White v. Illinois

PETITIONER: Randall D. White
RESPONDENT: State of Illinois
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Vermilion County

DOCKET NO.: 90-6113
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 502 US 346 (1992)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1991
DECIDED: Jan 15, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Arleen C. Anderson - on behalf of the Respondent
Gary R. Peterson - on behalf of the Petitioner
Stephen L. Nightingale - as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondent

Facts of the case

During Randall D. White’s trial on charges related to a sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, Illinois state prosecutors twice-attempted to call the child, who was by then five years old, as a witness, but each time she experienced emotional difficulty and left the stand without testifying. The trial court then allowed the admission of testimony by the girl’s babysitter, mother, emergency room nurse, doctor and an investigating officer that recounted statements she made describing the crime. This testimony was allowed into evidence under state-law hearsay exceptions for spontaneous declarations and statements made in the course of a medical examination. The jury subsequently convicted White. On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court rejected White’s claims that the introduction of the out-of-court statements violated his right to confront and cross-examine witnesses under the Sixth Amendment and affirmed the conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court denied discretionary review of the case.

Question

Does the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment require either that the prosecution produce a declarant at trial or show that the declarant is unavailable before admitting his or her out-of-court statements under the “spontaneous declaration” and “medical examination” exceptions to the hearsay rule?

Media for White v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 05, 1991 in White v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 15, 1992 in White v. Illinois

William H. Rehnquist:

The second case I have to announce is No. 90-6113, White against Illinois and here, petitioner Randall White was convicted in an Illinois State Court of sexually assaulting S.G., the initials given to a four-year-old girl to protect her anonymity.

In the minutes immediately following the assault, S. G. told her babysitter, her mother, and a police officer that petitioner had assaulted her.

Several hours later, while at the hospital, she repeated her account to a nurse and to a doctor.

S.G. never testified at the trial.

However, over petitioner's objection, the prosecutor called to testify each of the five people who had heard S.G.'s story and that each repeat the statements that S.G. made about the assault.

These statements were admitted by the trial judge under two state law exceptions to the general rule excluding hearsay evidence.

One that permits witnesses to repeat statements made by another person while that person was excited and another, permitting witnesses to testify about statements by another while that person was in the course of securing medical treatment.

Petitioner appealed his conviction claiming that the Trial Court violated his right to confront the witnesses against him as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution by allowing this testimony.

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed and we granted certiorari to resolve this question.

We hold that petitioner's confrontation right was not violated and affirm the decision of the Illinois Court.

We reject the argument advanced by the United States as amicus curiae that no violation occurred here because the Confrontation Clause is generally not intended to apply to hearsay testimony.

We think such an argument comes too late in the day given the court's long history of recognizing that hearsay testimony may often implicate Confrontation Clause concerns.

Nonetheless, while hearsay statements do raise these concerns, we conclude they are admissible based on a firmly ridded exception to the prohibition against receipt of hearsay testimony.

Such exceptions like the two involved here provide alternate guarantees of trustworthiness such that the requirement for in-court testimony of the decelerant may be dispensed with even if she is available.

Justice Thomas has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which Justice Scalia joins.