A three year old child is brutally beaten by his mother’s boyfriend and then threatened to remain quiet or he’ll get another beating. One morning following another beating, the child goes to school with bruises on his face and is questioned by a concerned teacher. Petrified and not knowing what to do or say, the little boy eventually discloses the horrific abuse to the teacher who calls the police. It is later discovered that this boy had belt marks on his back and stomach, and bruises all over his body. Police also find his 22-month old sister with black eyes, burn injuries, a swollen hand, and two pigtails having been ripped out of their roots. The abuser, Darius Clark , is arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse. Justice seems to be having its way until shortly before the trial when the judge decides that the child isn’t capable of testifying against the defendant.
At trial, the judge did allow the teacher to testify about what the child had told her regarding being hit by the defendant. Fortunately, the defendant was convicted of these horrific crimes and sentenced to prison for 28 years. Unfortunately, just when it seemed as if justice had finally been served, the appellate court reversed the defendants’ conviction. The court ruled that since the child was not able to testify, the teacher’s testimony about what the child had reported violated the defendant’s constitutional right to confront his accuser.
Was the court saying that abused children who are unable to confront their abusers are simply out of luck? Was the court siding with those who hurt little ones? Where is the justice in that?
Fortunately, the appellate court didn’t have the last word. That last word was published last week in a Supreme Court decision getting a bit less attention than others, but no less important. A decision that has the potential to bring much needed justice to abused children around the country.