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Nursing the Truth: Developing a Framework for Admission of Sane Testimony Under the Medical Treatment Hearsay Exception and the Confrontation Clause

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 50 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 2013 Pages: 277-302
Julia Chapman
Date Published
26 pages
This article presents a framework for use in admitting testimony from Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners under the medical treatment hearsay exception and confrontation clause.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are assigned to work in hospital emergency departments to treat sexual assault victims' injuries and begin investigations into victims' rage allegations. The question explored in this article is whether testimony by a SANE is considered hearsay and whether it is considered admissible in court under the medical treatment hearsay exception confrontation clause. The article examines the unique position of the factual testimony obtained by SANEs in working with sexual assault victims by reviewing the development of the SANE program in hospitals across the country and discussing the basic premise of the program. The article next presents background information on the two legal elements dealing with admissibility of SANE testimony: the history and requirements of the medical treatment hearsay exception, and the constitutional right of a defendant to confront their accuser. The next section of the article discusses the different factors that can affect the admissibility of SANE testimony in a court of law: determining the primary purpose of the statements made by the victim during the SANE interview - were the statements made primarily for medical purposes or were they made for legal purposes; whether the SANE is classified as a medical professional or a law enforcement agent; determining whether the SANE's primary purpose is responding to an ongoing emergency; the setting in which the SANE examination takes place, usually a medical facility; and the ability of statements made to a SANE to transition from testimonial statements to non-testimonial statements. The final section of the article presents a multi-factor framework that can be used by court officials to determine the admissibility of factual testimony by SANEs in cases where the victim does not testify in court.