The issue presented in Michigan v. Bryant (No. 09–150) is:
Should certiorari be granted to settle the conflict of authority as to whether preliminary inquiries of a wounded citizen concerning the perpetrator and circumstances of the shooting are nontestimonial because "made under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency," that emergency including not only aid to a wounded victim, but also the prompt identification and apprehension of an apparently violent and dangerous individual?
Summary For: Michigan v. Bryant (No. 09-150)
- Summary Facts: Police officers, responding to a gas station after a report that an individual had been shot, found Anthony Covington bleeding, apparently in pain, and lying on the ground next to the driver’s side door of his car. When an officer asked who shot him, he identified the respondent, known as Rick. The victim reported that he had driven to the gas station after the shooting, which was about six blocks from the house where he was shot. The officers went to the house to locate the defendant, but did not locate him. The officers “found what appeared to be blood and a bullet on defendant’s back porch and what the police believed to be a bullet hole in the back door,” along with the “victim’s wallet and identification … outside defendant’s house.” See Michigan v. Bryant, 483 Mich. 132, 768 N.W.2d 65, 67 (2009). The defendant ultimately was convicted of second-degree murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The victim’s statements identifying the defendant were admitted as excited utterances under Mich. R. Evid. 803(2). No Confrontation Clause objection was raised. The Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813 (2006), and Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004) Confrontation Clause decisions were issued after the state court trial.
- Claim On Appeal: On appeal, the respondent argued that his Confrontation Clause rights were violated by the introduction of the victim's testimonial responses and identification given to the police officers. The statements of the unavailable victim were inadmissible since they were not subject to cross-examination, as required by Davis and Crawford.
- Lower Court Action: A divided Michigan Supreme Court reversed the state trial court convictions. The majority "conclude[d] on the basis of Crawford and Davis that the 'primary purpose of the interrogation [was] to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution,' Davis, 547 US at 822," and held "that the statements constituted inadmissible testimonial hearsay." Because "the admission of these statements constituted plain error requiring reversal," the case was remanded for a new trial. See Michigan v. Bryant, 483 Mich. 132, 768 N.W.2d 65, 66-67 (2009).
- Certiorari Review: On March 1, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari review of the state court judgment.
- Supreme Court Recusal: Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case since she filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the respondent while she served as Solicitor General. If a four-to-four decision resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Michigan Supreme Court decision would be affirmed.
- Oral Argument / Transcript: On October 5, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on the case. See Michigan v. Bryant (No. 09-150) Oral Argument Transcript; Oral Argument Audio File (listen to the oral argument).
- Decision: "[H]old[ing] that the circumstances of the interaction between [the victim] ... and the police objectively indicate that the 'primary purpose of the interrogation' was 'to enablepolice assistance to meet an ongoing emergency.' Therefore, [the victim's ... identification and description of the shooter and the location of theshooting were not testimonial statements, and their admission at Bryant’s trial did not violate the Confrontation Clause." Michigan v. Bryant, 562 U.S. _, 131 S.Ct. 1143 (2011) (quoting Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813, 822 (2006)). Justice Elena Kagan was recused.
- Supreme Court Docket: Docket.
- Additional Information: For more information, see Key Briefs and Other Materials; and blog posts from the Federal Evidence Blog discussing the Michigan v. Bryant case (available here).