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Clergy-Penitent Privilege Invalid in Murder Case

Deacon allowed to testify about murder suspect's confession.

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.

Key point 3-07.3. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister.

Key point 3-07.4. 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 New York court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege did not apply to a murder suspect's confession to a detective who also was a church deacon, and therefore the detective could testify about the conversation at the defendant's trial. Two persons ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • November 1, 2012