St. Mary's Law Journal


Lisa R. Miller


In Maryland v. Craig, the Supreme Court held allowing child abuse victims to testify via one-way closed-circuit television does not violate a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause right if the trial court finds the procedure necessary to protect the child’s welfare. Although “confront” has generally been interpreted to mean “face-to-face,” on occasion, it may yield to public policy considerations and the compelling necessities of particular cases. The original purpose of the confrontation right was to prevent the accusers in a criminal proceeding from using ex parte affidavits or depositions against a defendant, in lieu of personal testimony. The Craig Court holding is a narrow exception to the defendant’s right to confront their accuser face-to-face.

The holding in Craig is not applicable outside the child abuse context because the balancing test applied requires case-specific findings of necessity in protecting the welfare of children. However, this decision should prompt amendment by state legislatures of statutes making use of the television procedure compulsory upon a trial court’s finding of necessity. The Craig decision reveals a clear preference for the use of the closed-circuit one-way television procedure because it ensures greater evidentiary reliability than the hearsay exception. This outcome strikes a fair balance by protecting both the child’s emotional health and the defendant’s ability to test the evidence. The constitutional validity of statutes authorizing one-way closed-circuit testimony will likely promote increases in the number of children testifying in child and sexual abuse cases. Society will benefit from corresponding increases in convictions of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.


St. Mary's University School of Law