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Name: People v. Lena
Case #: A138474
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 02/22/2017

Trial court properly struck defendant’s direct examination testimony as a sanction for refusing to answer any of the prosecutor’s questions on cross-examination. Lena testified during his trial for assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (d)(2)) and other offenses. However, he refused to answer any of the prosecutor’s questions on cross-examination, despite being warned by the trial court that his failure to do so would result in his direct testimony being stricken. The court struck his direct testimony. The jury convicted Lena and he appealed. Held: Affirmed. A trial court may impose sanctions when a defendant refuses to submit to cross-examination. One possible sanction is the striking of the witness’ direct testimony. In People v. Reynolds (1984) 152 Cal.App.3d 42, the court upheld the striking of a defendant’s direct testimony when he refused to answer questions on cross-examination. There, the defendant refused to answer a few questions related to the identity of his accomplice out of fear of retaliation. “If anything, the record here provides much stronger support for the striking of testimony” as Lena said his refusal to answer questions on cross-examination was to retaliate against the prosecutor for “stonewalling” and he refused to answer all questions on cross-examination, even basic ones about his identity. While Reynolds encouraged trial courts to consider less severe sanctions first, such as instructing the jury to take into account the refusal to answer questions when assessing a defendant’s credibility, and the court made no express finding that such a lesser sanction would be inappropriate in this case, such a finding can be implied. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by striking Lena’s testimony.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: