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State v. Scanlan

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

August 1, 2019


          FAIRHURST, C.J.

         In this case, we consider whether a crime victim's statements to his medical providers were testimonial and, if so, whether their admission at trial violated the defendant's right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1] We hold that the victim's statements in this case were nontestimonial because they were not made with the primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony. We separately hold that there was sufficient evidence to support the petitioner's unlawful imprisonment conviction. We affirm the Court of Appeals.


         A. Factual background

         Roughly a decade after his wife of over 50 years died, 82 year old Leroy Bagnell met a woman in a bar. He initially introduced 57 year old Theresa Gail Scanlan to his children as a friend, and within a month or two she moved into his house. At some point, he began referring to her as his girlfriend.

         About a year later on October 16, 2014, the police responded to a 911 hangup call made from Bagnell's house. Scanlan answered the door and told the police she had been having an argument with her roommate. Bagnell then appeared at the top of the stairs wearing a T-shirt and underwear. His head and forearm were bleeding, and he had a big, bloody, and bruised lump on his leg. When the police asked Bagnell how he had been injured, Scanlan replied that Bagnell had fallen out of his car. As a result of this incident, the Federal Way Municipal Court issued a domestic violence no contact order prohibiting Scanlan from coming within 1, 000 feet of Bagnell's house. Bagnell did not seek medical care for his injuries.

         On November 6, 2014, Bagnell's children became concerned when they were unable to reach him all day on either his cell phone or landline. All four children went to the house, arriving around 5:30 p.m. They found the lights out and the shades drawn, and they got no answer when they knocked and rang the bell. They let themselves in with a key. There was blood on the entryway carpet, on the stairs, and throughout the upstairs bedrooms. The stairway wall had been dented and gouged, and the kitchen floor was littered with shattered glass and broken ceramic figurines.

         There was more blood in the family room, along with a large trash can containing a broken, bloodstained broom handle and a broken golf club. There was a hammer on the coffee table and a crowbar on the dining table. Bagnell was also in the family room, sitting in a chair in the dark with his eyes closed. Bagnell was severely bruised from head to toe. His children called 911. All four children and the responding police officer testified that Bagnell was initially nonresponsive, then dazed and in a state of shock and confusion. Three of his children thought that he was dead or possibly unconscious.

         Scanlan was found in the garage underneath a blanket in her car with the doors locked. When the police arrived and removed Scanlan from the car, Bagnell's daughter shouted at her that she could have killed him. Scanlan replied that it was "not that bad." 6 Transcript of Proceedings (TP) (Nov. 18, 2015) at 769; 8 TP (Nov. 23, 2015) at 1071.

         Bagnell was taken to the emergency room, where he was treated by Nurse Catherine Gay, Dr. Robert Britt, and social worker Jemima Skjonsby. In addition to extensive bruising, he also had two broken fingers and several skin tears on his legs and arms. The police subsequently arrived around midnight, spoke to Bagnell, and had him sign a medical release form authorizing St. Francis Hospital and its staff to release his medical records to police and prosecutors.

         On November 12, 2014, the police met with Bagnell at his house and obtained a second medical release form for Virginia Mason Medical Center. The next day, Bagnell met with Dr. Curtis Endow, his primary care physician, at Virginia Mason. Dr. Endow referred Bagnell to a wound care clinic at Virginia Mason, where he subsequently received care from physician assistant Stacy Friel and Dr. Jessica Pierce.

         B. Procedural history

         Scanlan was charged with second degree assault, felony violation of a no contact order, unlawful imprisonment, and fourth degree assault. Neither Bagnell nor Scanlan testified at trial, but the court admitted several statements that Bagnell made to his medical providers.

         Nurse Gay testified that when she asked what had happened to him, Bagnell told her "that his girlfriend had beaten him up, and that he'd had a no contact order on this individual." 8 TP at 1108-09. When she asked him about a ring mark that she noticed on the back of his neck, "[h]e told me that his girlfriend . . . had tried to strangle him with his sweatshirt and had pulled the sweatshirt so hard, it had left this permanent ring around the back of his neck." Id. at 1110. She clarified on cross- examination that she could not recall whether he had used the word "strangled," but that "she, you know, did whatever with the sweatshirt and had it really tight." Id. at 1118. Gay testified that knowing how a patient's injury occurred and the identity of his assailant is important for monitoring hospital security and patient safety, determining whether to refer him to a social worker, and ensuring that he has the follow-up care he needs, including having a safe place to go after discharge.

         Dr. Britt testified that Bagnell stated "that he had been in his home for two days, that he had been imprisoned, or at least held in his home, against his will," that "he hadn't really eaten in a [] couple of days," and that "[h]e wasn't allowed to talk to his family." 7 TP (Nov. 19, 2015) at 925. Dr. Britt also testified that Bagnell "said that he was hit with fists, that he had been bitten in a couple of places[, ] and that he had been hit with a broom." Id. at 925-26. Dr. Britt stated that it was important to determine how patients' injuries occur because the mechanism of the injury determines how serious it is and affects which tests he runs, and it impacts discharge planning.

         Social worker Skjonsby testified that when she asked Bagnell whether he felt safe to go home, he responded "[t]hat he was relieved that this person had been removed from the home by police and that he wouldn't have to worry about it again." Id. at 883-84. Skjonsby stated that knowing about a patient's relationship with his assailant and knowing whether the assailant is in police custody helps her assess for safe discharge and connect the patient with appropriate social work services.

         Dr. Endow testified that when he asked how Bagnell had been injured, Bagnell "stated that he received the injuries during an assault" by "[h]is girlfriend." Id. at 818. Dr. Endow stated that to effectively treat patients he needs to know how an injury occurred-whether the injury is related to underlying medical conditions, is due to accidents, occurred from fainting or in the course of medical care, and so on. Dr. Endow further stated that it is important to know the identity of a patient's assailant to know whether the patient is still in potential danger and to know whether to refer the patient to Virginia Mason's social services department.

         Physician assistant Friel testified that when she asked Bagnell how his injuries occurred, he told her that "[h]e was living with a girlfriend at the time who had locked him in a room and had beat him with a candlestick, a broom, and a hammer over multiple areas." 8 TP at 1181. Friel explained that it was important to know for treatment purposes whether an injury had been caused by an object (versus, say, a hand) to make sure that no foreign bodies remain in the wound. Friel stated that knowing the identity of an assailant influences treatment because she wants to ensure that the patient has a safe place to go and is not returning to an environment that could result in more wounds.

         Dr. Pierce testified that when she asked Bagnell how his injuries occurred, "[h]e said that it was as a result of domestic violence.... He told me he was hit with a candlestick, a broom. He was punched or hit-I want to say a hammer, something hard." 7 TP at 909. Dr. Pierce stated that it was important to know the mechanism of injury because there is a high recidivism rate for wound patients. Accordingly, her practice involves not only treatment of existing wounds but also prevention of new wounds by, for example, having patients install grab bars in their homes. In addition, Dr. Pierce testified that knowing whether patients are returning to a safe environment is important from a treatment standpoint because more wounds result in more surface area to bandage and treat, which results in longer healing time, more potential for infection, and other complications.

         The jury convicted Scanlan of second degree assault, felony violation of a no contact order, and unlawful imprisonment. On appeal, Scanlan argued that admitting Bagnell's hearsay statements to his medical providers violated her confrontation clause rights and that there was insufficient evidence to support her unlawful imprisonment conviction. The Court of Appeals held that Bagnell's statements to medical personnel were nontestimonial[2] and therefore not subject to the confrontation clause, and it sustained her unlawful imprisonment conviction.[3] We granted Scanlan's petition for review and now affirm the Court of Appeals. State v. Scanlan, 191 Wn.2d 1026 (2018).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Bagnell's statements to his medical providers were not testimonial because they were not made with the primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony

         Scanlan first contends that Bagnell's statements to his medical providers were testimonial and that admitting them therefore violated the confrontation clause of the United States Constitution. We review confrontation clause challenges de novo. State v. Price, 158 Wn.2d 630, 638-39, 146 P.3d 1183 (2006).

         1. The primary purpose test ...

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