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Name: People v. Diaz
Case #: D063686
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 06/24/2014
Summary

Trial court prejudicially erred under Evidence Code section 352 by permitting jury to watch highly inflammatory videos concerning the consequences of alcohol-related driving offenses. At his first trial, Diaz was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Pen. Code, § 191.5, subd. (a)) and other drunk driving offenses (Veh. Code, §§ 23626, 23546). The jury also found that Diaz had suffered two or more prior offenses for driving under the influence. The trial court declared a mistrial on a murder charge after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. At Diaz’s second trial on the murder charge, the trial court allowed the prosecution to play two videos that Diaz had watched during mandatory alcohol education programs. The videos focused on the consequences of alcohol-related driving offenses in Delaware and the impact of alcohol-related traffic fatalities on victims’ families. Defense counsel repeatedly objected to the videos under section 352, arguing that they contained highly emotional content and gross misstatements of the law. Diaz was convicted of murder. On appeal, he challenged the trial court’s decision to permit the jury in his second trial to view the videos. Held: Murder conviction reversed. Although an accused’s prior convictions for driving under the influence and exposure to mandatory educational programs are admissible to prove implied malice by showing the accused’s awareness of the life threatening risks of drunk driving, the videos in this case were unlike any evidence that has previously been held to be admissible. They were highly inflammatory, appealed to the juror’s sense of sympathy and passion, improperly depicted jail conditions, and included statements about the law that were irrelevant and likely to mislead the jury. The trial court’s curative instruction to disregard certain information in the videos was inadequate and the error in admitting the videos was prejudicial.