What was Davis Vs. Washington  about?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a recent question, you asked about the case of Hammon v. Indiana.  Davis v. Washington was decided at the same time as that case and served as a contrast to it.  Both cases were about what sorts of statements by victims were admissible in a court of law.

In Davis, a woman had called 911 and, in the course of the call, described how her ex-boyfriend (Davis), against whom she had a restraining order, had beaten her.  When Davis was tried for violating his restraining order, the tape of the 911 call was played as evidence against him.  The woman did not testify.  Therefore, Davis claimed that the tape was hearsay and that he had no chance to confront his accuser as the Constitution says he must.

As in Hammon, this case came down to whether the victim’s statement was “testimonial” or whether it had been given as part of helping law enforcement understand what was happening at the scene of an emergency.  The statement in Hammon was testimonial because the emergency was over.  Therefore, it was not admissible.  In Davis, by contrast, the victim’s statement was allowed because a 911 call is part of an ongoing emergency.  Therefore, a statement made in such a call is not deemed to be testimonial and can be allowed as evidence.

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