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When alleged child victims talk by videotape

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Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

On March 10, Maryland’s highest court addressed how prosecutors can get around Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), in trying to present at trial videotaped conversations between alleged child abuse victims and social workers and other government employees. The main thrust of the opinion is to reverse the trial court’s refusal for the defense to call the child on cross-examination after the prosecutor played the videotape at trial subsequent to the child’s live testimony, where the defense declined to cross examine the child after his live testimony, apparently as a defense effort to prevent the prosecutor from offering the videotape into evidence.

The case is Myer v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___ (March 10, 2008). Myer also addresses the extent to which the defense will be permitted to cross examine the child beyond the scope of the child’s videotaped words:

"The trial court could have controlled the scope o f the cross-examination; that, too, is largely discretionary, especially with respect to a child-witness, and there is no need for us to opine as to what a trial court may, in its discretion, allow. A court, in this situation, may be willing to allow, and ordinarily should allow, a broader cross-examination if the alternative, mandated by the concurring opinion, would require that the cross-examination be bifurcated, thereby subjecting the child to being cross-examined, and thus having to relive the incident, twice. There certainly would have been no error and no abuse of discretion had the trial court here chosen to allow a greater range of cross-examination than would be permitted by the concurring opinion."

Myer v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___. Jon Katz.