Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ineffective assistance and adequacy of a prior opportunity for cross

A reader's question raises an interesting issue on which I haven't given much thought: If a witness testifies subject to cross against an accused at a first trial, which ultimately is thrown out, but then is unavailable at the time of the retrial, in what circumstances (if any) can the accused keep the testimony from the first trial out on the ground that the lawyer there did an inadequate job on cross? If I am wrong in what I say below, I hope readers will correct me, but here is the answer I glean from reading United States v. Owens, 448 U.S. 554 n.1, Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 73 n.1, and Mancusi v. Stubbs, 408 U.S. 204 -- yes, all pre-Crawford cases, but no reason to believe that Crawford overruled any of them on this point:

(1) If a court has not determined on the basis of other conduct that the first counsel was inadequate, the court will not ermine that the accused had an inadequate opportunity to cross on the basis that counsel did a poor job in cross.

(2) If there is an independently-based determination that counsel was inadequate,

(a) that does not automatically mean that the accused had an inadequate opportunity to cross-examine this witness, but

(b) it does mean that the court should examine counsel's actual performance with respect to the witness in question, and if that performance does not meet some minimum level of sufficiency then the prior opportunity should not be deemed adequate for Confrontation clause purposes.

Does that sound right?


Anonymous said...

Another angle on this question, what if the judge cuts off your cross examination? At a preliminary hearing says that he's heard enough for probable cause and certifies the case to Circuit Court. You haven't had the opportunity to adequately cross examin the witness and the testimony could potentially be used later at trial.

Anonymous said...

Following on the post above, often times counsel's objective in conducting a cross examination of a witness at a preliminary hearing (for instance, on a motion to supress) is different than at trial. How are courts to determine whether the cross at a preliminary hearing was the same as it would have been at trial?

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WrittenLikeAPlay said...

what is an example of prior opportunity to cross examine?
A preliminary hearing? What if the Prelim. Hearing was waived? And what is the hearsay exception when a witness dies, say 3 or 4 days before trial, then what happens to the defendant's case?