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Name: Carlson v. Attorney General of the State of Calif
Case #: 13-16535
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 06/26/2015
Summary

State court decision that defendant forfeited his right of confrontation by wrongdoing was not objectively unreasonable. Carlson was prosecuted for striking his son on the face (Pen. Code, § 273a, subdivision (b)). When the case went to trial, Carlson’s son and wife were subpoenaed to testify, but failed to appear. The trial court found Carlson had engaged in conduct designed to keep the witnesses from testifying and ruled that the witnesses’ prior statements could be admitted under the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception to the confrontation clause. Carlson was convicted and appealed. After unsuccessfully seeking relief in the state courts, Carlson filed a federal habeas petition in the district court, which was denied. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. The confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment bars the admission of the testimonial statements of a person who did not testify unless the person is not available to testify and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the person. Here, the wife’s and son’s statements to police were testimonial. However, the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception allows admission of testimonial statements where the preponderance of the evidence shows that the witness is absent by the defendant’s own wrongful procurement, i.e., the defendant intended that a witness be made unavailable to testify and endeavored to bring that about. (Giles v. California (2008) 554 U.S. 353.) In this case, the trial court could have reasonably inferred from the evidence that Carlson directly participated in the nonappearance of his wife and son, and because U.S. Supreme Court precedent permits admission of a testimonial statement by an unavailable witness in such circumstances, the state court’s decision was not an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Under AEDPA’s highly deferential standard, Carlson was not entitled to relief.