Court Ruling May Affect the Use of Video Testimony in Criminal Trials

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1832540992.jpgDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, many courts throughout the country have struggled to hear cases while also protecting the health and safety of participants. To prevent the spread of infections, in-person proceedings have been limited in many cases, and some courts have begun using technological tools to allow certain participants to connect remotely. While the use of remote technology has provided benefits in certain situations, many people have raised concerns about how these practices may affect a person’s right to a fair trial in criminal cases. While courts throughout the United States have addressed this issue in different ways, one recent court ruling may indicate that the use of remote video testimony may violate defendants’ rights in criminal trials.

Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Conviction Based on Remote Testimony

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides criminal defendants with the right to confront their accusers. A person should be able to directly question a witness during a criminal trial. When witness testimony is provided in person, a jury can observe how the person answers questions, and their facial expressions, body language, and other responses may indicate whether they are telling the truth and whether they are trustworthy. Testimony provided through video or other remote technology may not provide a jury with enough information to make a decision in a criminal case.

The Missouri Supreme Court recently addressed this issue when it considered a case in which a defendant was convicted of statutory rape based on the testimony of an investigator who appeared remotely during the trial rather than being physically present in the courtroom. Notably, this trial took place in 2019, well before most courts began using remote technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the alleged victim in this case had withdrawn their accusations, the prosecutor relied on the testimony of the investigator, who stated that DNA evidence in the case matched the defendant’s DNA.

In its ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court found that allowing remote testimony violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights, and it reversed the lower court’s verdict. In many criminal cases that have taken place during the pandemic, remote testimony has only been allowed if a defendant waives their right to confront witnesses in person. In the Missouri case, the defendant had objected to the use of remote testimony, but the judge overruled these objections. While the ruling in this case will apply to cases in Missouri, it may provide an indication of how other courts will address issues related to remote testimony and defendants’ Constitutional rights.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

During the pandemic, criminal defendants may need to address some unique legal issues. To ensure that their rights will be protected, it is important for a person to be represented by a lawyer who can advocate on their behalf and make the proper objections to any issues that may result in an unfair ruling. If you are facing criminal charges, Woolf Law Firm, LLC can advise you on how witness testimony and other forms of evidence may affect your case, and we can provide you with a strong defense in a criminal trial. To set up a free consultation, contact our Connecticut criminal defense attorney at 860-290-8690.

Sources:

https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-st-louis-missouri-c95c23e01849594d2a6627456236e228

https://www.jud.ct.gov/HomePDFs/ConnecticutGuideRemoteHearings.pdf


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