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Name: Packer v. Superior Court Ventura County
Case #: B245923
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 08/29/2013
Subsequent History: Review granted 12/18/13: S213894

Penal Code section 1424 procedures for disqualification of the prosecutor do not violate a defendant’s constitutional right to compulsory process. Petitioner, who is charged with murder, brought a pretrial motion, pursuant to Penal Code section 1424, to recuse the prosecutor. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the evidence presented did not warrant an evidentiary hearing. The evidence presented was that the prosecutor and prosecution witnesses had prior relationships with petitioner. Affirmed. Section 1424 provides for a two-stage process a court must follow when evaluating a motion to recuse. With the first stage, defendant’s motion must contain a statement of the facts setting forth the ground for the claimed disqualification, with authorities, accompanied by affidavits of witnesses competent to testify to facts set forth in the affidavit. At the second stage, after reviewing the affidavits the judge determines if an evidentiary hearing is necessary; it is not necessary unless the defendant makes a prima facie showing of entitlement to recusal. The appellate court rejected petitioner’s claim that the denial of an evidentiary hearing violated his right to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor because this right is a trial right and legitimate state interests justify not extending it to the pretrial situation presented here. Additionally, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing because in making a prima facie showing for recusal, a defendant has the burden of asserting facts which, if credited, establish a conflict of interest so grave as to make fair treatment unlikely; something petitioner did not accomplish here.