Please summarize the case of Pointer v Texas (1965).  Describe the reasons why this case was so important to the Confrontation Clause and the Hearsay Rule.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this case, Bob Pointer and an accomplice were arrested for allegedly robbing Kenneth Phillips.  A preliminary hearing was held at which Phillips appeared and testified.  At that time, Pointer was not represented by a lawyer.  This all happened in Texas. 

By the time that Pointer was actually tried for the robbery, Phillips had moved to California and could not come back to testify.  His testimony from the preliminary hearing was used as evidence at the trial.  By this time, Pointer was represented by a lawyer, who objected.  However, the judge overruled the objection and allowed Phillips’ statement to be admitted.  Pointer appealed this, eventually reaching the US Supreme Court.  The Court ruled in Pointer’s favor.  It ruled that the statement that Phillips had given was hearsay evidence and that Pointer had not had adequate opportunity to confront Phillips and to cross-examine him. 

This case was important to the Confrontation Clause and the hearsay rule because it applied the Confrontation Clause to state trials.  Before that time, the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment (which gives a defendant the right to confront their accusers) had been applied to federal trials but not to state trials.  States typically had laws and rules protecting this right, but the laws and rules were not uniform.  The Court’s decision in Pointer held that the clause did apply to the states, thus forcing all states to have the same rules.   The case is less relevant to the hearsay rule in that it simply states that a statement that was made in a preliminary hearing is only hearsay (and is inadmissible) in the context of a full trial.

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