Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17, 2 (2001) (per curiam)

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18

OHIO v. REINER

Per Curiam

Per Curiam.

The Supreme Court of Ohio here held that a witness who denies all culpability does not have a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Because our precedents dictate that the privilege protects the innocent as well as the guilty, and that the facts here are sufficient to sustain a claim of privilege, we grant the petition for certiorari and reverse.

Respondent was charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of his 2-month-old son Alex. The coroner testified at trial that Alex died from "shaken baby syndrome," the result of child abuse. He estimated that Alex's injury most likely occurred minutes before the child stopped breathing. Alex died two days later when he was removed from life support. Evidence produced at trial revealed that Alex had a broken rib and a broken leg at the time of his death. His twin brother Derek, who was also examined, had several broken ribs. Respondent had been alone with Alex for half an hour immediately before Alex stopped breathing. Respondent's experts testified that Alex could have been injured several hours before his respiratory arrest. Alex was in the care of the family's baby-sitter, Susan Batt, at that time. Batt had cared for the children during the day for about two weeks prior to Alex's death. The defense theory was that Batt, not respondent, was the culpable party.

Batt informed the court in advance of testifying that she intended to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege. At the State's request, the trial court granted her transactional immunity from prosecution pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2945.44 (1999). She then testified to the jury that she had refused to testify without a grant of immunity on the advice of counsel, although she had done nothing wrong. Batt denied any involvement in Alex's death. She testified that she had never shaken Alex or his brother at any time, specifically on the day Alex suffered respiratory arrest. She said she

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