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Name: People v. Herndon
Case #: B183711
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 04/03/2007

Sheriff’s deputies’ use of force to make appellant submit to fingerprinting was a violation of his right to due process. During appellant’s trial for robbery, five sheriff’s deputies forcibly took appellant’s fingerprints outside the presence of the jury, after he refused to submit to fingerprinting. A fingerprint expert then testified that appellant’s fingerprints matched those left on the door of the salon where the robbery occurred. The appellate court found that the deputies’ conduct was so brutal, offensive, and unreasonable as to violate appellant’s right to due process of law. Although appellant refused to submit, the deputies’ conduct was reckless and unreasonable. There were nonviolent alternatives available to the court such as instructing the jury that refusal to submit to fingerprinting was evidence of consciousness of guilt. However, the court found beyond a reasonable doubt that the error did not prejudice appellant. Appellant himself drew the jury’s attention to his refusal to fingerprint during his cross-examination of the deputy. (Appellant represented himself at trial.) No reasonable jury would have missed the connection between appellant’s refusal to fingerprint and his consciousness of guilt.