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Name: Alvarado v. Superior Court
Case #: S059827
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/17/2000
Subsequent History: Rehearing denied 11/15/00

In light of controlling constitutional authorities, the trial court and the Court of Appeal erred in determining that, when the risk to a witness is sufficiently grave, the identity of the witness may be permanently withheld from a defendant and that the witness may testify anonymously at trial, even though the witness is a crucial prosecution witness and withholding the witness’ identity will impair significantly the defendant’s ability to investigate and cross-examine the witness. The trial court’s ruling implicated appellant’s right to due process of law, and his right to confront the witnesses against him. And in every case in which the testimony of a witness has been found crucial to the prosecution’s case, the courts have determined that it is improper at trial to withhold information essential to the defendant’s ability to conduct an effective cross-examination. The trial court’s order was vacated and on remand, the trial court is free to fashion a more limited order denying, restricting, or deferring disclosure of the identity of each witness before trial, as long as that order does not impermissibly impair defendants’ right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses effectively at trial.