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Name: People v. Vasquez
Case #: C064913
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/26/2012

Portions of a codefendant’s hearsay statement are not admissible as declarations against penal interest when the portions are not specifically disserving to the codefendant and tend to minimize the codefendant’s culpability. Appellant and Guerrero were charged as codefendants with a robbery and assault that involved a firearm. In a statement, Guerrero told police that no gun was involved and that appellant only punched the victim once on the side of the head. Appellant sought to introduce these two portions of Guerrero’s statement. The trial court ruled that the portions of the statement were hearsay and were not admissible as declarations against penal interest. The Court of Appeal agreed. The statements were not specifically disserving because they spoke to appellant’s culpability, not Guerrero’s. They also tended to minimize Guerrero’s culpability because he would have been exposed to an aggravated sentence and enhancement penalties if a gun was used during the incident. Appellant failed to show that the statements were trustworthy because Guerrero made them during a police interrogation after he had been arrested, Mirandized, and confronted with information that the police were investigating an armed robbery involving his car. In these circumstances, Guerrero had a motive to curry favor and minimize responsibility. Additionally, the excluded portions of the statement were not inextricably tied to and part of a specific statement against penal interests that appellant asked the trial court to admit. It made no difference that a criminal defendant was the proponent of the evidence; the statement must still meet the requirements that it be disserving to the declarant and trustworthy to come within the hearsay exception.