07 March 2011

Primary Purpose Test (PPT):
The Bryant Case

Michigan v. Bryant, FEB11, USSC No. 09–150:
Opinion: Sotomayor

(1) Statements made when questioned by police are non-testimonial when circumstances objectively indicate that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency. (2) The relevant inquiry is not the subjective or actual purpose of the individuals involved in a particular encounter, but rather the objective purpose that reasonable participants would have had, as ascertained from the individuals’ statements and actions and the circumstances in which the encounter occurred. (3) That the threat has ended for the victim does not mean the threat has ended for police and others. (4) The medical condition of the victim is important to the primary purpose inquiry (a) to the extent that it sheds light on the ability of the victim to have any purpose at all in responding to police questions and (b) on the likelihood that any purpose formed would necessarily be a testimonial one. (5) The victim’s medical state provides important context for first responders to judge the existence and magnitude of a continuing threat to the victim, themselves, and the public. (6) A conversation which is non-testimonial because of an emergency situation can evolve into a testimonial conversation. (7) Trial courts will exclude those portions of statement which are testimonial. (8) The statements and actions of both (a) the declarant and (b) interrogators provide objective evidence of the primary purpose of the interrogation. (9) A statement is not testimonial merely because an emergency exists. (10) The primary purpose of an interrogation during an emergency must have been to deal with the emergency in order for the answer to not be testimonial. (11) The Court expressly states that, while it may have hinted that dying declarations are non-testimonial, it does not address that issue in this case. (12) There may be other circumstances, aside from ongoing emergencies, when a statement is not procured with a primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony.

Part 1 of 4 - Part 2 at 3 p.m.

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