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Name: People v. Duarte
Case #: S068162
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 12/04/2000
Subsequent History: None

The trial court here erred in admitting into evidence a redacted version of a police sergeant’s hearsay declaration relating an alleged accomplice’s postarrest declarations, which retained a number of statements which did not disserve the declarant’s interest, but actually furthered his interest. Under Evidence Code section 1230, the declaration failed to qualify as the exception to the hearsay rule for declarations against penal interest. Moreover, because redaction cannot enhance the underlying general trustworthiness of a declaration as a whole, the declaration here was not sufficiently reliable to warrant admission. First, the declaration was an attempt to shift blame or curry favor. Second, the declaration was made to police shortly after the declarant was apprehended, in an atmosphere of coercive interrogation. Because this error was prejudicial under People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, the California Supreme Court reversed appellant’s convictions for shooting at an inhabited dwelling, conspiracy, and assault with a firearm. Supporting the finding of prejudice was the absence of an eyewitness, the lack of physical evidence linking appellant to the crime, the fact that the first trial ended in a hung jury, the unreliability of the chief prosecution witness, Knox, and the fact that at the second trial, the jury inquired about the hearsay declarant’s statements. Because the court reached this conclusion under Evidence Code section 1230, it did not reach the federal constitutional issues under the Sixth Amendment. Justice Chin concurred, and Justice Baxter partially dissented and partially concurred, finding nonprejudicial error.