The Nation

The Supreme Court, ruling in the case of a brutally beaten California prison counselor, said that a witness may testify about a crime even if he has forgotten the incident. On a 6-2 vote, the justices rejected the argument that such a witness violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." James Owens, an inmate at the federal prison in Lompoc, was convicted and sentenced to an extra 20 years for the 1982 beating of John Foster with a metal pipe. Foster suffered a fractured skull and, at the trial, could recall nothing about the attack. But, during his hospital stay, he had told an FBI agent that Owens was the attacker. The counselor took the stand against Owens but was unable to answer questions about the attack or the basis for his identification. On a 2-1 vote, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the defense. In writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the appeals panel read too much into the amendment.

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