Supreme Court hands down a decision that maintains conviction for a Willmar man

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a decision Thursday that maintains a conviction for a Willmar man, and may have an impact on the state's child molestation cases.

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a decision Thursday that maintains a conviction for a Willmar man, and may have an impact on the state's child molestation cases.

The court upheld the fall 2003 conviction for Orlando Manuel Bobadilla, 26, of Willmar, who was convicted by jury in Eighth District Court in Willmar on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 144 months in prison after the court found he put his finger between a 3-year-old child's buttocks.

Bobadilla had appealed the conviction to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Crawford v. Washington, which reinforced a defendant's Constitutional right to cross examine witnesses directly.

The impact of Crawford on cases with child victims was immediate.

Prior to Crawford, children and victims deemed incompetent to testify were able to give statements through taped interviews, affidavits and the testimony of others. These statements were presented as evidence and the victim then did not have to testify in court.


However, Crawford states clearly that a defendant has a right to cross examine witnesses who give testimony.

So what becomes important in cases with child victims, is whether their statements are testimonial in nature.

In the Bobadilla case, the victim had given a statement to a child protection worker, who had interviewed the child at an interview room at the Kandiyohi County Law Enforcement Center, with a police officer present.

The child was found incompetent to testify at the trial, but a tape of the child's interview was presented as evidence. The social worker and the police officer also testified about the victim's statements from the interview.

Bobadilla argued that those statements and the interview were testimonial in nature, and said his conviction should be overturned.

The Court of Appeals agreed, but prosecutors appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court.

The Minnesota Supreme Court opined that neither the child nor the social worker was acting to produce a statement for the trial, although the interview followed the known method for getting testimony for a trial.

The court said that the social worker was, as part of her job, trying to assess whether the child had been abused, and whether he was in need of protective services.


They also said that the child was not acting in order to provide testimony.

Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue said he was pleased with the decision, especially because it gives justice to Bobadilla's victim.

However, he hadn't had the time Thursday to fully study the decision and the impact it may have on the state's interpretation of Crawford.

He said one good thing to come from the decision is that it has reinforced the system by which Kandiyohi and many other counties interview child victims of molestation, a system developed after Crawford.

Beccue said the decision is important because it allows police to be present in interviews.

"The majority was not troubled by presence of the officer," he said. "That's a good thing."

There was one dissenting opinion, filed by Justice Alan Page.

Page argued that the statements made out of court were obviously testimonial.


He wrote the victim's statement "was a statement made as part of a police interrogation, in the presence of a police officer, to a government official who was taking the statement as a surrogate interviewer for the police."

Page concluded, "In its opinion, the court eloquently articulates the need to, and importance of, protecting children. On the facts of this case, that important need conflicts with the Sixth Amendment, which, under out system of justice, must prevail."

Bobadilla's attorney, John Mack, said Page was right.

"It seems to me that the Supreme Court was going out of its way to read Crawford v. Washington out of existence," he said. "[Page's] dissent pretty much had it right."

Mack is urging Bobadilla to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court or the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said that he believes this decision will be overturned because of the Minnesota court's interpretation.

"Ultimately a case like this going to go to (U.S.) Supreme Court on this very issue," he said. "When it does, there is a good chance that this case and cases like it will be overruled."

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