I am still here, there has just been little of note from the Courts. Until yesterday.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed and rendered a sexual battery case.  That, alone, is of note, but the opinion speaks to an issue that plagues these kind of cases.

Goforth v. State.  Amanda Goforth was a high school teacher in Newton County, MS in 2008-09.  Without going into the prurient details (to the chagrin, I am sure, of at least one prosecutor I know) she was indicted for five counts of sexual battery on Jane Doe, a minor student.  Doe was under investigation by the school’s resource officer already for theft, and after being confronted, gave a statement implicating Goforth as having had a sexual relationship with her.  Deputy Spence, the school resource officer, interviewed Goforth and after telling Goforth that she had a statement from Doe and Doe’s friend Chase Rigdon, Goforth said she did not with to speak further.  The interrogation continued anyway and she eventually admitted to having had sexual activity with Doe, but she claimed it was under duress.

At the trial, the State called Rigdon, whose statement corroborated Doe’s, and was the main piece of evidence to rebut Goforth’s claims of duress.  However, between giving the statement and the trial, Rigdon suffered a catastrophic injury and was confined to a wheelchair and could not remember Doe or Goforth or his statement but did recognize his signature.  Over Goforth’s objection, his statement was allowed to be read to the jury.  The jury convicted Goforth on two of the five counts.

The Court reversed the conviction based on Rigdon’s statement being allowed in.  Under a Crawford analysis, the statement should never had been allowed.  Rigdon’s statement was testimonial in nature, and Goforth, due to Rigdon’s inability to remember anything, was unable to cross-examine him as to his statement.  Allowing his statement in, without an ability to cross-examine it, then or when it was taken, violated the Confrontation Clause.  Even though Rigdon was physically there, he couldn’t be crossed as to his statement because he didn’t remember.

After reversing based on the Crawford violation, the Court turned to whether to remand or render.  As all five counts had the exact same wording, including the time frame, there was no way to differentiate between the counts she was found guilty on and the counts she was acquitted on.  Since a remand would subject Goforth to possible Double Jeopardy, the Court had no choice but to render.


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