Michigan Supreme Court Rules Defendants Can Reject Remote Testimony

Original Case Details

A man convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct won a legal victory on a constitutional issue in the Michigan Supreme Court recently. The issue decided by the Michigan Supreme Court was whether a defendant in a criminal case has the ability to decide whether remote testimony can be allowed in a trial. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 6-0 in favor of the man, stating that the remote testimony in his case violated the confrontation clause of both the United States and Michigan Constitutions. This is a blow to prosecutors, who were looking to have remote testimony become more of the norm due to costs and convenience. The Court made it clear that the right to confront accusers in person and the ability to decide to waive that right rested only with defendants, not prosecutors. If an accused agrees that remote testimony can be given against him in a case, then and only then, will it be allowed. The obvious fear from defendants and their attorneys is that when testimony is given remotely, it does not always accurately represent what a witness’s testimony really looks like. A jury in this situation is not given the opportunity to use their abilities to read body language, but most importantly, it flies in the face of what the Sixth Amendment intended, the right to be able to confront your accusers in court, and question them in a public forum. The case will now go back to a lower court who will view the video testimony that was given in the man’s case to determine if a different result would have occurred had the testimony been in person.

The Confrontation Clause

The confrontation clause is found in the Sixth Amendment in the United States Constitution. It states that an accused shall always have the right to confront the witnesses against him or her. Now, this does not mean a confrontation in the normal sense, i.e. a fight. What this means is that an accused is able to confront his accusers in court, by forcing them to testify in person against the accused. The confrontation clause was designed to prevent defendant’s from being convicted from written depositions or affidavits. The Sixth Amendment also affords you the right to be represented by an attorney, and the right to a trial judged by your peers.

Court During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal profession has grown more technologically in three months than it has in thirty years. The necessity for the court system to continue operations has led to courts doing remote hearings using video apps such as Zoom. The least dangerous offenders have been released from jails, as courts and jails around the country have tried to keep COVID-19 outside of their walls. The Michigan Supreme Court made it clear that there is a line between court convenience and the Constitution. Constitutional rules are not meant to be discarded in the name of convenience of cost effectiveness. A unanimous ruling from any Supreme Court is rare, and truly shows how important this issue is. Jury and bench trials have slowly started back up again as courts have opened back up in the state of Michigan as the world tries to inch forward in the fight against COVID-19.

Any Further Questions?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

Contact Information