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Name: People v. Ramirez
Case #: B289077
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 04/26/2019
Summary

A statement in a hospital record attributed to the victim was not admissible as a dying declaration where there was no evidence the victim believed he was in danger of dying at the time he made the statement. Ramirez was convicted of felony hit-and-run causing death or injury. At his trial, a witness testified that she saw Ramirez’s vehicle hit the victim, who was lifted in the air and landed on his back on the asphalt. The victim injured the back of his head and could not remember what happened. Ramirez testified and gave a different account, stating that he saw the victim being beaten by two men. He gave the victim a ride and, as they were driving 25 to 30 miles per hour, the victim jumped out of the car without warning. A defense expert testified that the victim’s injuries were more consistent with having jumped or fallen from a moving vehicle than having been struck by a car. Approximately two weeks after the incident, the victim died of a heart attack and the coroner determined that blunt force trauma to the back of the victim’s head was a contributing cause of death. During his trial, Ramirez sought to introduce a hospital record containing a statement attributed to the victim where he stated he was not hit by a car but was assaulted with fists to the head. The trial court excluded the statement, finding that it was not reliable and failed to qualify as a dying declaration. Ramirez challenged this ruling on appeal. Held: Affirmed. A dying declaration constitutes an exception to the hearsay rule if the statement was made on personal knowledge and under a sense of immediately impending death. Here, while the head injury was serious, there was nothing else in the record that reasonably suggested the victim made the statement believing he was about to die. No other applicable exception for admitting the hearsay statement was offered. The trial court was well within its discretion in precluding admission of the record. Additionally, the exclusion of the hospital record did not violate Ramirez’s constitutional right to present a defense.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/B289077.PDF