Right to Confront

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Child abuse, United States Constitution Pages: 5 (2014 words) Published: April 1, 2013
The confrontation clause has been a valued law in American courts throughout our history, although the clause has seen some discord. The confrontation clause specifically states that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witness against him. This clause was brought about to protect rights of the accused in criminal prosecutions, by allowing cross examination and allowing the accused to look the witness against him in the eye. Particularly in the case Coy v. Iowa, John Coy tested this constitutional right against the state of Iowa. Coy was set free after being convicted of sexually assaulting two thirteen year old girls. A technicality in how the case took place was ultimately the basis of Coy’s release, and not evidence that lead to the original guilty verdict. Though the right to confront is a highly valued right here in America, certain cases involving children, exceptions have to be made and clarified to protect children in the sexual abuse cases. There are some laws regarding sexual abuse cases and children, but the proper system has yet to be set up to guarantee protection for children in all sexual abuse cases.

As in the case with Coy v. Iowa the lack of clarification in the confrontation clause resulted in John Coy’s release. Coy was tried for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls, Kathy Brown and Lynda Thompson. Brown and Thompson were sleeping in their makeshift tent in their backyard when a masked man came into their tent in the night, grabbed them both by the throat and declared, “If you scream, I will knock you out.” The masked man then continued to sexually assault them in a lascivious manner. As daylight arrived and the assault came to an end the girls were left terrified and battered. The girls never did see the face of their assaulter, but they did remember certain details about the night. They recalled a plastic cup that was urinated in during the assault, the flashlight that was used by their attacker, and the manner in which the attacker wore his watch. It turns out that the plastic cup and flashlight described was found in John Coy’s house, and that Coy wore his watch in the manner the girls described. Also while the girls set up their backyard tent only someone from Coy’s backyard could have seen what they were planning for the night. All of this evidence led to the arrest of Coy. In court, an expert determined that hair found at the scene was similar to that of Coy’s hair. While there was only circumstantial evidence, I believe it was proved that beyond a reasonable doubt that John Coy was guilty.

The testimony would prove to be a crucial component in Coy’s conviction, as the two girls were the only witnesses and all the evidence was circumstantial. The girls were adamant on not even talking about the assault, let alone testifying in court with their believed attacker less than 50 feet away. It would prove to be a difficult task to urge the girls to testify in court under the taxing circumstances. They girls were both mentally as well as physically beaten down from the assault. To expect these two very young girls to give an accurate and clear description of what happened should not be expected of them. A recently developed Iowa statute presumes trauma for all child witnesses. This statute was implemented to help with the girls with the testimony. The court granted the girls a screen placed between them and Coy during their testimony, so that the girls did not have to see their believed assaulter and could testify in court. Jack Wolfe, Coy’s attorney, vigorously objected to the use of the screen believing that it gave the overwhelming impression that Coy was guilty. This use of the screen may give the impression of a guilty verdict. The judge did give this instruction about the use of the screen in the court: "The general assembly recently passed a law which provides for this sort of procedure in cases involving children. Now I would...

Cited: Alderman, Ellen, and Caroline Kennedy. In Our Defense: the Bill of Rights in Action.
New York: Morrow, 1991. Print.
"Child Abuse Research and Statistics." Sexual Abuse. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.
"Coy v. Iowa, U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument." The Oyez Project | U.S. Supreme
Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.
Grearson, Katherine W. "Proposed Uniform Child Witness Testimony
ACT: An Impermissible Abridgement of Criminal Defendants ' Rights." Boston College. Web. 29 Nov. 2010. .
"Maryland v. Craig, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The Oyez Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More. Web. 29 Nov. 2010. .
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