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Issues that affect ministers and churches
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 were injured and one killed in a shooting outside an apartment building. A few days later an adult male contacted a police detective who was a deacon at the same church that he attended, and asked to meet with him and his brother (the defendant) at a local restaurant. The detective agreed, and drove to the restaurant. As he was parking his car, he was approached by the defendant and his brother, and their aunt. The defendant was crying and the detective asked him what he wanted to talk about. The defendant said that he wanted to talk and that he was under a lot of pressure. The defendant and the detective got into the rear seat of the car, leaving the door open. The aunt got into the front passenger seat, and the defendant's brother stood outside, leaning into the open door.

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