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Name: Murdoch v. Castro
Case #: 02-55650
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/05/2004

A ruling which barred the defendant from seeing or using a purportedly exculpatory letter written by a witness to the witness’s attorney may have denied the defendant his constitutional right to confront witnesses. In this federal habeas proceeding, the district court had applied California’s attorney-client privilege rule to prevent the defendant or his counsel from reviewing a letter in which an accomplice who testified against defendant at trial allegedly told his attorney that defendant was not guilty of the offense. The Ninth Circuit held that where the confrontation clause and the attorney-client privilege are squarely at odds, evidentiary privileges or other state laws must yield if necessary to ensure the level of cross-examination required by the Sixth Amendment. The court remanded the matter for in camera review of the allegedly exculpatory letter to determine if denial of access to that letter violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights.