Monday, January 13, 2014

Disciplinary files from jail, probation office not admissable as 'business records' sans confrontation

In Smith v. State, the First Court of Appeals ruled in December (pdf) that disciplinary records of jail and prison inmates and probationers are not "business records" but testimonial evidence and the defendant must be allowed to cross-examine whoever created them under the US Constitution's Confrontation Clause. Harris County prosecutors entered disciplinary records into evidence from the probation department, the Harris County Jail and the Texas Youth Commission during the punishment phase of a murder trial and the trial judge allowed it over defense objections. The appellate court ordered a do-over on the trial's punishment phase. Opined the TDCAA case summary: "Ouch."

The ruling distinguishes between records that merely list top-line disciplinary actions taken by a correctional facility from "testimonial" statements characterizing the memories and opinions of particular COs and/or probation officers. Not groundbreaking stuff, but a relatively rare pro-defendant ruling from the First Court.


Anonymous said...

It's nobody's business what they did.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, not if the state can't prove it beyond just hearsay evidence. The takeaway isn't "nobody's business," just that allegations aren't proof.