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Name: People v. Rafael B.D.R. (2024) 101 Cal.App.5th 385
Case #: A167246
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/10/2024

Trial court prejudicially erred by denying defendant’s motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence that two adults devised a plan for the alleged minor victim to falsely accuse defendant of abusing her. Rafael was convicted of committing a lewd act upon a child and sending or exhibiting harmful matter to a minor (his niece). The trial court granted a motion in limine excluding testimony from two witnesses the victim’s mother had asked to provide false information to the police implicating Rafael. Following his conviction, Rafael filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence in the form of a declaration from Rafael’s ex-wife stating that she and the victim’s mother devised a plan to have the victim fabricate sexual abuse allegations in order to get Rafael deported. The court denied the motion. Rafael appealed. Held: Reversed. When determining whether a new trial should be granted on the basis of newly discovered evidence, the central question is whether that evidence would probably result in a different verdict upon retrial and the court will consider a number of factors. Here, the declaration by Rafael’s ex-wife was new evidence that contradicted the strongest evidence against Rafael (the testimony of the victim) and provided a link between the victim’s credibility and the excluded evidence that the victim’s mother attempted to get family members to lie about Rafael. The trial court’s finding that this evidence could have been discovered sooner was unsupported by the record, as it ignored the ex-wife’s statement that she pretended to be on Rafael’s side during the court proceedings. “[T]he trial court clearly abused its discretion in denying defendant’s new trial motion without first holding an evidentiary hearing that would enable it more clearly to assess the new evidence.”