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Name: People v. Lopez
Case #: H026476
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/08/2005

During appellant’s trial for assault on a police officer, his trial attorney failed to object to the introduction of evidence that each of the four defense witnesses had been arrested, and that three of them had committed misdemeanor batteries. The jury was instructed that the evidence of misdemeanor conduct was relevant only for the purpose of determining credibility. The appellate court reversed his conviction because the evidence was irrelevant to the witness’s credibility and was therefore objectionable. None of the arrest evidence should have been admitted, as it showed that the witnesses might be biased against the police and that each of them was untrustworthy. There was no tactical reason for defense counsel to withhold objection to evidence of mere arrests or misdemeanor conduct not involving moral turpitude. Since the jury was presented with sharply conflicting testimony, the credibility of witnesses was critical, and the jury clearly disbelieved the defense witnesses, reversal was required. (“Unhindered excess undermines our confidence in the outcome.”) Further, counsel did not object to the introduction of appellant’s statement to police officers, “Fuck you. I want to talk to my lawyer,” nor the prosecutor’s argument that the statement was an adoptive admission. The jury should not have been asked to consider appellant’s colorful invocation of his right to counsel as an adoptive admission. The prejudice was compounded by the failure to give cautionary instructions about oral admissions. There was no apparent tactical reason for defense counsel’s failure to object to this evidence and argument, and reversal was required on that ground as well.