State Can’t Use Recorded Calls in Custody Case

     OTTAWA, Ill. (CN) – A mother was wrongfully determined to be an unfit parent due to the improper admission of recorded telephone conversations, an Illinois appeals court ruled.
     Leah H. appealed the results of a permanency hearing that caused her to lose the rights to her three children, ages 12, 8 and 5.
     The state’s petition claimed that Leah and the children’s father, William, offered the children an unstable environment plagued by domestic violence.
     Attempting to prove Leah’s unfitness, the state said she made “lengthy, ranting and derogatory” phone calls to William’s girlfriend.
     The court listened to 11 of the phone messages and conversations and determined that Leah was “drunk, high, or psychotic” and “out of control exhibiting instability,” the ruling states.
     As a result, the court gave custody to William. However, Judge Mary O’Brien overturned the decision on appeal. “The recordings purported to be of the respondent (Leah) were not properly admitted by the trial court because they lacked a proper foundation. Thus, the court abused its discretion in admitting them,” O’Brien wrote.
     “Specifically, neither the respondent nor anyone else testified as to whose voices could be heard on the tapes. More importantly, no one testified whether the voices of the minors were the voices of the instant minor children,” she added.

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