Recently, states have enacted legislation aimed at protecting child victims of sexual abuse from the trauma of testifying face to face with the accused. The United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of one such statute in Coy v. Iowa. In Coy, the trial court permitted the use of a one-way screening barrier between the accused and the complaining child witnesses. The Court found that the procedure violated Coy's sixth amendment right of confrontation and reversed the conviction.
The Court's opinion is subject to criticism on two grounds. First, the decision was inconsistent with prior confrontation clause cases. Second, the majority underplayed the public policies involved. Fortunately, however, the decision probably will have minimal effect on future adjudications because at least four members of the Court agreed that the protection of child victims is a compelling interest that may, at times, outweigh confrontation clause values.
To Keep the Balance True: The Case of Coy v. Iowa,
40 Hastings L.J. 437
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol40/iss2/5