Thursday, April 29, 2010

State's brief in Michigan v. Bryant

The State, which is the petitioner, has filed its brief -- a day early -- in Michigan v. Bryant, the pending case on fresh accusations. You can read it by clicking here. I expect to be filing an amicus brief on behalf of the respondent. So for now I will confine myself to a few short comments.

1. The brief justifies its name. It is refreshingly short -- the body is only 17 pages.

2. At the very outset, it poses the Question Presented: "[A]re preliminary inquiries . . . nontestimonial . . . ?" But the question isn't whether the inquiries, preliminary or not, are testimonial. The question is whether the statements, in this case by the victim, are testimonial or not. One of the critical points that I hope will be clarified as a result of this case is that the question of whether a statement is testimonial or not must ultimately be made from the perspective of the speaker (or of a reasonable person in the position of the speaker), not from that of the questioner, if there is one.

3. The brief appears to take the position that any statement made in response to police interrogation before the police have ascertained the identity and location of the perpetrator is non-testimonial. This view would vitiate much of the confrontation right. It would also distort the incentives of police, and detract from their protective function.