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Use of the Clergy-Penitent Privilege

When can the privilege be raised?

Key point: The "clergy-penitent privilege" is a rule of evidence that prohibits the disclosure of privileged communications at trial when the privilege is properly raised.

• A New York court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege could not be used to attack a warrantless arrest. The body of a woman was found at a church camp. A few weeks later, another woman went to the home of a local pastor and confessed that she had killed the deceased. When the woman left, the pastor called the police and advised them of the confession. Based entirely on this information, the police arrested the woman, obtained a confession from her, and charged her with murder. The woman was later found guilty of second degree murder by a jury and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 22 years. The woman appealed her conviction, claiming that her arrest had been unlawful since it was based ...

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Posted:
  • May 2, 1994

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