WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court held its cards close to the vest Tuesday as it considered whether the government’s duty to correct a criminal defendant’s misleading testimony outweighs his Sixth Amendment right to confront an accuser.
Defendants normally would get the chance to cross-examine witnesses who deliver evidence against them, but that did not happen at the trial of Darrell Hemphill for a 2006 shooting in the Bronx that ended in the death of 2-year-old David Pacheco.
Hemphill wasn’t indicted for the shooting until 2013 after his DNA was found on a blue sweater that had been in evidence. In the intervening years, the city had stumbled through a mistrial of its initial suspect, Nicholas Morris, ultimately settling for a plea deal in which Morris pleaded guilty to possession of a .357 revolver.
At Hemphill’s trial, prosecutors introduced that allocution from Morris, without actually bringing him in to testify, to correct Hemphill’s implication that Morris owned both the .357 and a 9 mm matching the bullet that killed Pacheco.
Hemphill is now serving a 25-year sentence affirmed by the New York Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court took up his appeal in April, agreeing to resolve whether “a criminal defendant who opens the door to responsive evidence also forfeits his right to exclude evidence otherwise barred by the Confrontation Clause.”