Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17, 3 (2001) (per curiam)

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Cite as: 532 U. S. 17 (2001)

Per Curiam

was unaware of and had nothing to do with the other injuries to both children. The jury found respondent guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and he appealed.

The Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, reversed respondent's conviction on grounds not relevant to our decision here. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the reversal, on the alternative ground that Batt had no valid Fifth Amendment privilege and that the trial court's grant of immunity under 2945.44 was therefore unlawful.* 89 Ohio St. 3d 342, 358, 731 N. E. 2d 662, 677 (2000). The court found that the wrongful grant of immunity prejudiced respondent, because it effectively told the jury that Batt did not cause Alex's injuries.

The court recognized that the privilege against self-incrimination applies where a witness' answers "could reasonably 'furnish a link in the chain of evidence' " against him, id., at 352, 731 N. E. 2d, at 673 (quoting Hoffman v. United States, 341 U. S. 479, 486 (1951)). Hoffman, it noted, requires the trial court to determine whether the witness has correctly asserted the privilege, and to order the witness to answer questions if the witness is mistaken about the danger of incrimination. Ibid. The court faulted the trial judge for failing to question sufficiently Batt's assertion of the privilege. It noted that the Court of Appeals, in finding a valid privilege, failed to consider the prosecutor's suggestion that Batt's testimony would not incriminate her, and Batt's denial of involvement in Alex's abuse when questioned by the Children's Services Board. The court held that "Susan Batt's

*Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2945.44 (1999) states in pertinent part: "In any criminal proceeding . . . if a witness refuses to answer or produce information on the basis of his privilege against self-incrimination, the court of common pleas . . . unless it finds that to do so would not further the administration of justice, shall compel the witness to answer or produce the information, if . . . [the prosecuting attorney so requests and] . . . [t]he court . . . informs the witness that by answering, or producing the information he will receive [transactional] immunity . . . ." (Emphasis added.)


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