A preliminary hearing is a matter of great public importance because it secures the right to be free from erroneous incarceration. Without a fair and impartial process for determining whether or not probable cause exists to support the charges brought, an accused could be imprisoned or made to enter bail unjustly. In Commonwealth v. Ricker, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the prosecution could establish a prima facie case against the defendant based solely on hearsay evidence at the preliminary hearing. Additionally, the court determined that the presentation of such hearsay evidence did not violate the defendant's constitutional rights under the Confrontation Clause. However, both the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution bestow individual rights to citizens during all criminal prosecutions, not just at trial.
This Comment first analyzes the text of the Confrontation Clause provisions of the state and federal constitutions as well as the intent of the Framers in ratifying the Constitution. Next, this Comment discusses the critical nature of preliminary hearings in the criminal adjudicatory process, illustrated by the triggering of other individual rights enumerated in the Sixth Amendment at this stage, including the right to counsel. This Comment then explains why a defendant, who has not had the chance to meet his accusers before trial, has been handicapped by Pennsylvania's process. Finally, this Comment will describe the impediments created by the Pennsylvania Superior Court's erroneous decision of Ricker and will further suggest that defendants may have more success in the future by arguing that their procedural due process rights have been violated.
Courtney M. Kenyon,
Incarceration Without Confrontation: An In-Depth Look At Commonwealth v. Ricker,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: https://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlra/vol121/iss1/9