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Name: People v. Smith
Case #: G034443
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/27/2005

A jury found codefendants Smith and Taffola guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances for the murder of Star. At trial, Taffola’s girlfriend Robledo testified that Taffola called her and told her that Star had been killed when he and Smith went to her room to rob her, and an altercation occurred during which Star was killed. She said Taffolo immediately returned to their room, and was distraught and anxious. Smith argued on appeal that his confrontation rights were violated by the admission of the out-of-court confession of his codefendant, which incriminated him. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. Taffola’s statements qualified as spontaneous statements under the hearsay exception, and therefore the Aranda/Bruton rule did not apply. Robledo’s testimony did not violate Smith’s confrontation rights because the statements were nontestimonial and fell within a firmly rooted hearsay exception. Further, there was no prosecutorial misconduct because the prosecutor commented on the discrepancies between Smith’s opening statement and the testimony produced. Also, the court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Taffola’s Marsden motion because Taffola’s complaint’s regarding his counsel’s inadequate representation were basically tactical disagreements, and did not by themselves constitute an irreconcilable conflict. Nor did the trial court err by failing to instruct the jury sua sponte to view accomplice testimony with distrust. An accomplice instruction need not be given sua sponte when the accomplice is a codefendant. Further, here an accomplice instruction would have been improper because Taffola’s spontaneous statement to Robledo was not accomplice testimony.