Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Confidential and Privileged Communications - Part 2
A Texas court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege did not apply to statements made by a murder suspect to a police officer who also served as the youth director at the suspect's church.
Key pointThe Clergy-Penitent Privilege In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister.
Key pointThe Clergy-Penitent Privilege In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

A Texas court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege did not apply to statements made by a murder suspect to a police officer who also served as the youth director at the suspect's church. A man ("Clayton") was convicted of capital murder for killing a woman in the course of a burglary by striking her multiple times in the head. Shortly after the murder, a police sergeant ("John") and a detective drove to Clayton's home to speak with him about the incident. In addition to being employed as a police officer, John was a youth director at the same church Clayton attended. Clayton attended weekly classes that John taught on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, and also attended regular church services. Clayton invited John and the detective into his home, asked if anything was wrong, and began weeping. Clayton agreed to accompany John to the police department, although he was not placed under arrest or handcuffed. Upon arrival at the police department, John and Clayton went into an office to talk. After approximately two hours of discussion, Clayton asked to speak with the pastor of his church. While waiting for the pastor to arrive, Clayton told John that he "did not mean to kill her." After speaking with his pastor, Clayton approached John and told him he was "ready to get it off his shoulders." Clayton was read his Miranda warnings, waived his rights, and signed a written confession in which he admitted to killing the victim because she would not give him five dollars she allegedly owed him. Clayton was later convicted of capital murder, in part on the basis of John's testimony.

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Posted: July 2, 2001
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