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Name: Arteaga v. Superior Court (Santa Clara County)
Case #: H040702
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/27/2015

Uncorroborated accomplice testimony can be sufficient to support the finding of probable cause necessary for a grand jury indictment. A grand jury indicted Arteaga on street gang and drug offenses. Arteaga moved to dismiss the indictment because the only evidence the grand jury received in support of the charges was uncorroborated accomplice testimony. The trial court denied his motion, and Arteaga petitioned for a writ of mandate and/or prohibition. Held: Petition denied. Penal Code section 1111 provides that a conviction cannot be based on the testimony of an accomplice unless it is corroborated by other evidence that tends to connect the defendant with the crime. Penal Code section 939.8 permits a grand jury indictment when the evidence “would warrant a conviction by a trial jury.” The grand jury determines whether probable cause exists to accuse a defendant of a particular crime; it is not required to receive evidence that would actually prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. “[E]ven though uncorroborated accomplice testimony cannot provide the basis for a conviction at trial, it may ‘warrant’—that is, provide ‘justification or reasonable grounds for’ the grand jury to return an indictment.” An instruction “informing the grand jury to view an accomplice’s testimony with caution will ensure the grand jury can fairly perform its investigatory function.” Additionally, there was no basis for concluding that the accomplice testimony was so unreliable that the indictment violates Arteaga’s constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.