National District Attorneys Association

 

NATIONAL CENTER FOR PROSECUTION OF CHILD ABUSE

January 2009

Update Express
This publication was prepared under Grant No. 2003-CI-FX-K008 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the United States Department of Justice, the National District Attorneys Association or the American Prosecutors Research Institute.


Update Express is provided by the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse to help child abuse professionals keep abreast of new legislation, case law, and relevant news.

United States District Court for the District of Minnesota Overturns State v. Bobadilla, Ruling That a Forensic Interview of a Three-Year-Old Is "Testimonial"

Bobadilla v. Carlson, 570 F. Supp. 2d 1098 (2008) U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54338

The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota decided on July 16, 2008, to vacate the judgment of conviction and sentence of habeas Petitioner Bobadilla, who had previously been convicted by a Minnesota State Court of sexually abusing a three-year-old child. See Bobadilla v. Carlson, 570 F. Supp. 2d 1098 (2008).[1] The conviction stems from a 2004 police investigation that began after the Petitioner's three-year-old nephew disclosed digital penetration of his rectum by the Petitioner. The police investigation led to a videotaped interview of the child, at the request of law enforcement, conducted by a social worker five days after the victim reported it to his mother. Petitioner was convicted of the sexual assault by the Minnesota State Court after the child was found incompetent and his videotaped statement was admitted over objection. That conviction was subsequently upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court who focused on the age of the victim and the intent of the interviewer when considering whether or not the child's statements were testimonial.

The United States District Court reasoned that the granting of Bobadilla's habeas petition was necessary because Petitioner's conviction had been upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court on the "unreasonable application of clearly established federal law"[2] by finding that the allowance of a videotape at trial of the non-testifying child's statement concerning the incident conducted by a social worker, did not violate the Petitioner's Sixth Amendment Right of Confrontation.

The United States District Court additionally found that it has been clearly established that "statements taken by police officers in the course of interrogation were testimonial"[3] and "even if the social worker conducted the interview under Minn. Stat. s. 626.556 (2004), interviews under that statute were meant to serve the purposes of criminal investigation as well as child protection."[4]

The United States District Court further held that the Minnesota Supreme Court erred when concluding that "a recorded interview of a child that was conducted at the request of a police detective in the detective's presence, at a law enforcement center, by a government actor specifically trained in the forensic interviewing of children"[5] was not a police interrogation as outlined by the 2004 United States case of Crawford v. Washington, 514, U.S. 36 (2004).

The United States District Court clearly indicated here that the statements that were taken of the three-year-old child were taken "in the course of an interrogation,"[6] and therefore, testimonial. In addition, the United States District Court found here that the admittance of the child's videotaped testimony at trial as well as the admittance of the interviewer's testimony were not harmless but in fact "clearly very important (and likely crucial) to the prosecution's case." [7] Petitioner's conviction was therefore vacated.

 

[1]  Bobadilla v. Carlson, 570 F. Supp. 2d 1098, U.S. Dist. LEXIS (2008)

[2]  Id. at 1

[3]  Id. at 1

[4]  Id. at 1

[5]  Id. at 14

[6] Id. at 12

[7]  Id. at 14

 

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