COLUMBUS (AP) — Witnesses at the child-abuse trial of a man accused of harming the 3-year-old son of his girlfriend should not have been allowed to discuss statements the boy made to preschool teachers, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled today in a decision that could tie prosecutors’ hands in future child-abuse cases.
At issue is the role teachers or other non-law enforcement officials play when they hear allegations of abuse and then report them as required by law.
The court’s 4-3 ruling upheld a lower-court decision that ordered a new trial for Darius Clark of Cleveland, convicted in 2010 of several counts of felonious assault and child endangering.
The son of Clark’s girlfriend was questioned by preschool teachers about bruises and welts they saw on him when Clark dropped him off in March 2010, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
Clark was later indicted, and at trial, the preschool teachers and others were allowed to discuss statements the boy made, but the boy was not required to testify.
Clark appealed his conviction on the grounds the statements violated his constitutional right to confront witnesses.
Clark’s argument hinged on what role the teachers played when they asked the boy about his injuries.