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Name: People v. Leon
Case #: B140721
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 08/14/2001
Subsequent History: Modified on den. of rehrg. 9/6/01
Summary

In a case charging a forcible lewd act with a child, the defendant’s interpreter was permitted to testify that she saw defendant move his hands over his groin while the child testified. The Court of Appeal held this was prejudicial error. First, the trial court failed to weigh the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial impact as required by Evidence Code section 352. Next, because the evidence was so ambiguous (the interpreter testified that defendant had his hands in his lap, and was opening and closing his fingers, but did not know if he was touching his penis), it likely “confused” the jury and its probative value was weak. Moreover, the prosecutor argued that the defendant was “so turned on by the mere sight” of the victim “that he’s masturbating.” The fact that the jury saw a member of the defense team testify to conduct which may have been innocent further added to the prejudicial effect.