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Name: People v. Houston
Case #: A105198
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/15/2005
Subsequent History: rvw. den. 9/21/05
Summary

The admission of a murder victim’s prior reports of violent acts committed against her by the defendant, her estranged husband, was not prejudicial error where other evidence of the defendant’s guilt was overwhelming. The court did not reach the issue of whether statements to police and hospital personnel were testimonial in nature, instead finding that even if the admission of the statements violated the Sixth Amendment the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The statements were tangential and cumulative, and the case was not a close one. Next, the court did not err denying a defense motion to exclude DNA evidence where the prosecution expert had used the entire tissue sample in performing the DNA tests, because there was no evidence of bad faith by the expert in failing to preserve an untested sample for the defense. Further, the court properly admitted evidence showing that the defendant had engaged in extramarital affairs and that he had lied to two women about his marital status. The evidence was admitted in the form of testimony by the two women and in the cross-examination of the defendant during his own testimony. The appellate court found that the evidence was admissible because it was relevant in regard to both motive and credibility, as well as to explaining the presence of certain fingerprints at the alleged scene of the crime. Finally, any prejudice resulting from trial spectators’ display of placards and buttons showing the victim’s likeness was minimal enough to have been cured by the trial court’s prompt admonition to the jury, and in any event was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt due to the overwhelming evidence of guilt.