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Name: People v. Giles
Case #: B166937
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 10/25/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 12/22/04: S129852

In his appeal from his conviction for first degree murder, appellant contended he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses because the trial court admitted hearsay evidence of statements by the victim regarding a prior act of domestic violence which were admitted under Evidence Code section 1370. The appellate court held that it need not decide whether the statements were testimonial as defined by Crawford v. Washington, because appellant was barred from asserting a Confrontation Clause objection under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing. Under that doctrine, a defendant who has rendered a witness unavailable for cross-examination through a criminal act may not object to the introduction of hearsay statements by the witness on Confrontation Clause grounds. Therefore, appellant forfeited his Confrontation Clause exception to the statements. The holding is “a narrow one.” Forfeiture by wrongdoing does not automatically make the hearsay by an absent witness admissible – it must still fall within a recognized hearsay exception. A defendant can only forfeit his right of confrontation through an intentional criminal act. And the doctrine cannot be applied where it would be unjust to do so. Here, the statements were admitted under a statutory hearsay exception which required a finding of trustworthiness. Forfeiture must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, and the jury must not be advised of the forfeiture finding. Further, there was sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation where appellant had a desire to end his relationship with the victim, and retrieved a loaded gun from the house and prepared it to fire before shooting her several times.