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Expectation of Secrecy

Court rules that murderer waived his right to the privilege.

Key point 3-07.2. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made in confidence. This generally means that there are no other persons present besides the minister and counselee who can overhear the communication, and that there is an expectation that the conversation will be kept secret.

A Florida court ruled that a murderer's confession to a minister was not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and therefore a trial court did not commit reversible error in allowing the minister to testify at the murder trial concerning the confession. The minister testified that he warned the defendant several times that he would not treat anything incriminating as confidential. Having been asked by the defendant to accompany him to the police station for questioning, he testified that he warned the defendant against disclosing anything that "was bad" ...

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  • March 1, 2010