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Name: People v. Eccleston
Case #: A090567
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 05/24/2001
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 8/22/01
Summary

Evidence Code section 1360 permits statements made by victims of certain sexual offenses who are under the age of 12, which would otherwise be barred as hearsay, to be admitted if the time, content, and circumstances of the statements provide sufficient indicia of reliability, among other requirements. The statute does not violate the accused’s rights to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him under the U.S. Constitution. The victim was adopted by at age three by the defendant’s mother. The offenses occurred and became known when she was eight. Two psychologists testified that it would be very stressful for her to testify. A videotape was made of her interview by a police officer, which the court described as “low key” and “never insistent or inquisitorial.” The court reviewed the factors listed in Idaho v. Wright (1990) 497 U.S. 805 which indicate “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness:” 1) spontaneity and consistent repetition; 2) the mental state of the declarant; 3) use of terminology unexpected from a child of that age; and 4) lack of a motive to fabricate. The court found a review of these factors satisfied the federal requirement. The court noted the statute provides several safeguards not required by the Constitution: the child must be shown to be unavailable (not required constitutionally unless the statement is made in a judicial setting) and the statement must be corroborated, which it was here by statements of the defendant. [Editor’s note: This case contains a long history of the use of hearsay in child sexual abuse cases and a list of other states which have upheld similar state statutes against a constitutional challenge.]