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Name: People v. Navarette
Case #: B210691
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 02/01/2010

While potential harm from improper testimony can usually be remedied by a curative admonition, here it could not because the testimony in question suggested appellant confessed. At appellant’s trial for lewd acts on a child, the court suppressed appellant’s statement to police. Nevertheless, the investigating detective testified he did not test for DNA for several reasons, but that he could not testify about the first reason because the court ruled appellant’s statement inadmissible. The trial court denied a motion for mistrial, but did admonish the jury and did not allow the detective to give further testimony. Later that day, the prosecutor notified the court he had learned the detective’s conduct was intentional. The detective had told another prosecutor he was upset about the ruling on the motion to suppress and that he “was going to show” the court. Again, a mistrial motion was denied, but there was another admonition when the jury was instructed on the law. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the admonitions could not undo the harm. From the detective’s statement, the jury could have reasonably inferred that the DNA evidence was not tested because appellant confessed. When a jury thinks a defendant has confessed, the presumption of innocence becomes meaningless. And the detective’s willfulness shows he meant to prejudice the jury in just that way. In a case such as this, where the evidence was not overwhelming, the detective’s misconduct likely achieved the desired result.