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Name: People v. Quitiquit
Case #: D050385
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/12/2007
Summary

Evidence Code section 1370, which provides that statements that explain infliction of an injury are not inadmissable if they are made at or near the time of the injury and are reliable, requires that the statements are made within close temporal proximity to the injury. Appellant and his wife of 15 years (the victim) were separated although appellant occasionally stayed with her and their children at her trailer home. One evening they were involved in an argument in her bedroom. About a week later, the victim went to the doctor complaining of neck pain and was ultimately diagnosed with an infection and prescribed antibiotics. Her condition deteriorated, she experienced numbness and other disabling symptoms. At a second doctor’s appointment she stated that she had no known injury to her neck. On April 14, she was admitted to the hospital. On April 24, after being in hospital for nine days, for the first time, she told the doctor that appellant had twisted her neck on March 6. Police were notified and during a telephone call she was interviewed and again provided the information. At a follow-up visit by police, she once again related the information, although she was sleepy and a “little out of it.” She died of complications in late December and appellant was charged with murder and spousal abuse. Over appellant’s objection, the statements she made were introduced pursuant to Evidence Code section 1370 and appellant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The appellate court, applying the rules of statutory construction to section 1370, determined that the statute’s requirement of “at or near” meant hours or days and not weeks or months and found that it was error to admit them. Because these statements went to the heart of the prosecution case, the error was prejudicial under a Watson standard and the conviction was reversed. In view of the section 1370 error, the court did not reach appellant’s claim that admission violated his constitutional right to confrontation under Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36.