Skip to content
Name: Fenenbrock v. Director of Corrections for Californ
Case #: 11-15880
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/24/2012

Defendant has no right to pretrial access to interview a witness where the prosecution does not interfere with such access. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder for a 1991 killing. Prior to trial defense attorneys sought to interview a material witness, R.H., who declined to be interviewed after consulting with his therapists and guardian ad litem. The defense was concerned that R.H. had been influenced and improperly coached regarding his testimony. The trial court upheld the denial of access to R.H. and, seeing signs of fatigue during R.H.’s testimony, limited the duration of cross examination. Affirmed. A witness has a right to refuse the defense pretrial access, however, “the prosecution may not interfere with a witness’ decision to grant or refuse pretrial access.” Here, the record reflects that an interview with the defense was not in R.H’s best interest. In addition, it was CPS who counseled R.H. regarding his testimony, not the prosecution. Nor did the time limit on cross-examination of R.H. violate defendant’s right of confrontation; the right is limited to the opportunity to effectively examine the witness, not examination in whatever manner and to whatever extent the defense requests. Generally, a trial court violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation when it prevents a defendant from cross-examining a witness as to a particular, relevant matter, such as bias.