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The right to confront one's accusers is a concept that dates back to Roman times. See Coy v. Iowa, 487 U. S. 1012, 1015 (1988); Herrmann & Speer, Facing the Accuser: Ancient and Medieval Precursors of the Confrontation Clause, 34 Va. J. Int'l L. 481 (1994). The founding generation's immediate source of the concept, however, was the common law. English common law has long differed from continental civil law in regard to the manner in which witnesses give testimony in criminal trials. The common-law tradition is one of live testimony in court subject to adversarial testing, while the civil law condones examination in private by judicial officers. See 3 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 373-374 (1768). 


Nonetheless, England at times adopted elements of the civil-law practice. Justices of the peace or other officials examined suspects and witnesses before trial. These examinations were sometimes read in court in lieu of live testimony, a practice that 'occasioned frequent demands by the prisoner to have his 'accusers,' i.e. the witnesses against him, brought before him face to face.' 1 J. Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England 326 (1883). In some cases, these demands were ...

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