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Seventh Circuit: Crawford Not Applicable to Revocation Hearings

On May 2, 2006, the Seventh Circuit held that the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses as set forth in Crawford v. Washington, 561 U.S. 36 (2004), does not apply to revocation hearings.

Lamond D. Kelley, a federal prisoner, was on supervised release for the Class D felony of escape when his supervised release was revoked for the Grade A violations of battery, aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon, resulting in a 24-month additional sentence. The only evidence introduced during the revocation hearing was the testimony and report of a police officer who did not personally witness any criminal activity.

The police officer was called to the scene of a confrontation following a report of a man with a gun. Upon arrival he discovered Kelley, his brother Ronald, and Daniel and Terra Patterson, a brother and sister. The Pattersons told him that they had been in an altercation with the Kelleys and that Lamond and Ronald had punched them and Lamond had retrieved a rifle from the trunk of his car. The officer noticed that Daniel had suffered a broken tooth. The Kelleys were arrested and a rifle was discovered in the trunk of Kelley’s car.

The officer testified to those facts at the revocation hearing. Kelley objected to the “testimonial evidence” as inadmissible hearsay under Crawford and the Fifth Amendment. The court found Kelley guilty of the Grade A violations and sentenced him to 24 months. Kelley appealed.

The Seventh Circuit held that in accordance with Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), revocation hearings are not criminal prosecutions within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment and therefore neither the Sixth Amendment nor Crawford applied to them. Crawford did nothing to change this fundamental holding of Morrissey.

The Seventh Circuit held that Kelley did have a due process right under the Fifth Amendment not to have hearsay introduced at his revocation hearing unless the court made a finding of good cause for not allowing confrontation. The district court failed to make such a finding in this case. However, the Seventh Circuit held that that error was harmless because the hearsay in the police officer’s testimony and report bore substantial indicia of reliability so that its admission was not fundamentally unfair in the revocation hearing context.

Although the district court should have put on the record why the hearsay was reliable and why the reliability was substantial enough to supply good cause for not producing the witnesses, that had not been an absolute requirement in the Seventh Circuit. Therefore, the failure to put such findings in the record did not violate Kelley’s due process rights, and the district court’s judgment and sentence were affirmed. See: United States v. Kelley, 446 F.3d 688 (7th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

United States v. Kelley