In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts are dealing with many novel legal issues. One of those issues is how to conduct Arizona criminal trials in a time of social distancing. Thus far, there is no consensus on how to effectively hold a trial while protecting a defendant’s constitutional rights, however, some courts are considering allowing witnesses to testify through the use of two-way video calls.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” This is referred to as the Confrontation Clause. Over the years, the United States Supreme Court has issued several important opinions discussing a defendant’s right to confront their accusers. However, this issue seems more salient than ever, and will likely come before the Court again.
Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that, while not dealing specifically with the complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrates the issue quite clearly. In that case, a defendant faced sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in 1996. At the time, a rape kit was performed, however, it was not analyzed until 2015. The results of the testing tied the defendant to the crime.