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Name: Curry v. Superior Court (Orange County)
Case #: G047000
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/25/2013

Investigator may testify at preliminary hearing regarding experts’ findings on cause of death. Appellant’s wife was killed in 1994. He was not charged with her murder until 2010, when forensic testing confirmed she was killed by lethal levels of nicotine poisoning. At the preliminary hearing, a police investigator testified about the forensic evidence that formed the basis of the prosecution’s case. Over defense objection, he also related the opinions of two experts regarding the cause of death. Curry filed a Penal Code section 995 motion, claiming the investigator’s lack of scientific training and knowledge regarding the experts’ opinions rendered his testimony unreliable. He petitioned for prohibition/mandate after denial of the motion. Held: Affirmed. Voters enacted Proposition 115 in 1990, the constitutional and statutory implementation of which allow hearsay evidence at preliminary hearings. There are limits, however, such as the preclusion of a probable cause finding based on the testimony of a noninvestigating officer or mere “reader” of a police report. (Whitman v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 1063, 1080-1081.) Here the investigating officer was familiar with the experts’ work, had read the reports and the experts’ resumes, and conducted telephone interviews of both experts. While the investigator failed to present evidence such as laboratory licensing or testing information, which would have been helpful, this does not mean the testimony was unreliable.