On June 18th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered a unanimous decision in the case of Ohio v. Clark. The Supreme Court’s verdict in Ohio v. Clark offers a final resolution to a case that deals with the right of a young child to identify and testify against their abuser. Many advocates for victims of child sexual abuse believe that the Supreme Court’s decision in this case will go a long way towards protecting innocent victims, and will strengthen the prosecution of those that commit acts of violence and sexual abuse against children.
The case centers on a 2010 incident where a three-year-old child under the care of a daycare center was observed to exhibit evidence of physical abuse. When asked by their teacher at the day care center who was responsible for causing the abuse, the child identified his mother’s boyfriend, Darius Clark, as the perpetrator. Ohio courts debated this case for several years, and through a long series of appeals, Ohio V. Clark finally found its way in front of the United States Supreme Court.
The central issue in this case was whether or not the child’s identification of his abuser, in this case Mr. Clark, could be admissible as evidence in a trial. By constitutional law, all defendants have a right to confront evidence laid against them by the prosecution and law enforcement. However, because the three year-old child in this case was deemed too young to testify, and therefore could not be cross-examined by the defense, Mr. Clark’s lawyers argued that his identification of his abuser should not be admissible as evidence in the case.
In the U.S Supreme Court’s final decision, all 9 judges ruled unanimously against the position held by Mr. Clark’s defense team. The Supreme Court found that the child’s identification of his abuser was not made with the intent of creating evidence for the abuser’s prosecution, and thus did not qualify as “testimonial.” Therefore, the child’s identification of his abuser was determined to be admissible evidence against Mr. Clark, and helped to secure the charges of felonious assault, child endangerment, and domestic violence which he now faces.
This decision is a huge victory for child victims of abuse. This case establishes that a child’s statements about the abuse they suffer made to teachers, friends, family members, or anyone else that is not responsible for prosecuting criminal behavior, will likely be admissible as evidence against their abuser. This helps to close certain loopholes that abusers have used in the past to escape prosecution for their heinous and deplorable crimes against children.
Cases of child sexual abuse are extremely complex and difficult for victims and their families. At Nix, Patterson and Roach, Child Sexual Abuse attorneys, we work tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children and young adults. Children are the most vulnerable members of our communities, and we all share a responsibility to protect them from those that would do them harm.
If you believe that you have witnessed abuse, or if you are a victim of child sexual abuse by a clergy member, teacher or coach, call Nix, Patterson and Roach at 1-800-220-1088. When you call our firm, our caring and compassionate sexual child abuse attorneys will provide a FREE, confidential and no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation.
Child predators must be held accountable, and Nix Patterson and Roach can help achieve the justice you and your family deserve. Call attorney Neil Smith for help.