Indefinite Retroactive PCR for Crawford Permitted – Danforth v. Minnesota

Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individual states in our country are free to provide unlimited, retroactive application in post-conviction relief proceedings to the new rule of law announced back in 2004 in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). In today’s case, Danforth v. Minnesota, the petitioner had been convicted in state court in 1996 of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The evidence against the petitioner at trial was presented to the jury by way of a videotaped interview of the child victim. In 2004, years after the petitioner’s conviction had become final, the Supreme Court ruled in Crawford that although testimonial evidence in the form of hearsay may be admissible under state hearsay law exceptions, its use in a criminal trial violates the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. As a result of this 2004 decision, the petitioner in Danforth moved for post-conviction relief in state court on his 1996 conviction. His petition was rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, largely on the basis that the Court believed it had no authority to expand the application of the constitutional rule of law expressed in Crawford.

The United States Supreme Court today reversed that holding and ruled that the state courts have full, discretionary authority to permit unlimited, retroactive application of the rule of law announced in Crawford in post-conviction relief applications for cases involving violations of state law.

This decision by the United States Supreme Court will require now New Jersey courts to decide whether or not to permit full, retroactive consideration of Crawford issues in post-conviction relief applications for convictions that occurred prior to the effective date of Crawford in March of 2004. By way of example, as a result of today’s holding, New Jersey courts could authorize post-conviction relief petitions on DWI blood cases from 2003 where an affidavit was submitted in lieu of live testimony by the person who drew the blood sample from the body of the defendant. (See generally State v. Renshaw, 390 N.J. Super. 456 (App. Div. 2007); State v. Kent, 391 N.J. Super. 352 (App. Div. 2007)).

Download a copy of Danforth v. Minnesota.

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