The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review a decision in Iowa that prohibited a videotaped interview with a child from being used in the trial of the man accused of sexually abusing the girl. Iowa Assistant Attorney General Mary Tabor says she knew her office faced "long odds" with the request. "We thought it was worth asking given that this is a new area of law concerning the confrontation clause and when are children’s statements admissible, but we were not under a delusion that it was going to be easy to get it granted," Tabor said.
The case involves James Bentley of Vinton, who is charged with second-degree sexual abuse of a child in Linn and Benton Counties. The child, Jetsetta Gage, was killed by Bentley’s brother, Roger, who is now serving life in prison. Tabor says the high court did not indicate exactly why it declined the review.Tabor says the Supreme Court granted just eight cases today and denied 264 requests for review.
The Iowa Supreme Court had upheld a district court ruling, saying the child’s statements would violate Bentley’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him. Some states, including Minnesota, have issued opposite rulings in cases similar to Bentley’s. Tabor believes the U.S. Supreme Court will need to revisit the so-called confrontation clause soon. "The court did grant another confrontation clause case concerning lab reports today, so there’s a lot of different contexts in which this comes up in and there are lots of questions for the court to still answer I believe," Tabor said.
James Bentley is already in prison. He was handed a 100 year sentence on federal child pornography charges. Officials in Linn and Benton Counties will now decide if they will proceed with the sex abuse charges without use of the videotaped interview with Gage. The Cedar Rapids girl was 10 years old at the time she was murdered in March 2005.