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Name: People v. Tran
Case #: H036764
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/29/2013

Declarant’s statement to his friend that the appellant shot someone and the declarant helped him burn a car was admissible as a declaration against penal interest because it rendered him potentially liable for arson and as an accessory to murder and was reliable. Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 50 years to life. The victim was shot to death in her car and a red Mustang vehicle was placed at the location of the incident. Following the shooting, Johnny Trieu, a friend of appellant’s brother Tommy, had been interrogated by police and told them that Tommy told him that appellant had shot someone and Tommy helped appellant burn his car, a red Mustang. At trial, Tommy’s statement to Trieu was introduced, in addition to other evidence connecting appellant to the victim. On appeal, appellant contended that admission of the statement was error. Affirmed. A statement is admissible under Evidence Code section 1230 (declaration against penal interest) only if the declarant is unavailable, the statement is specifically disserving of the declarant’s penal interest, and the declaration is sufficiently reliable. Tommy was unavailable at trial. His assertion to Trieu that he assisted in the burning of the car and that appellant shot someone was against his penal interest as it potentially subjected him to an arson charge or to a charge of accessory to murder. The circumstances under which Tommy made the statement were compelling indicia of reliability and trustworthiness. Tommy knew of the crime, he helped appellant burn the car, he also agreed to burn appellant’s clothing, Trieu was a trusted friend, and the two spoke in a remote place where Tommy could speak freely and in confidence. Under the totality of these circumstances, Tommy’s statement met the criteria of section 1230.