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Name: People v. Wahlert
Case #: E035174
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 07/24/2005
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 9/28/05: S135805

Wahlert and Garrison were tried jointly for murder. During the investigation, police arranged a “pretext call” between Wahlert and Garrison, where Wahlert would be fed questions by the officers and get Garrison to talk. On appeal, Garrison contended that the trial court prejudicially erred by allowing the jury to hear Wahlert’s recorded statements. The appellate court held that Wahlert’s statements during the recorded conversation, to the extent they were offered for their truth against Garrison, were testimonial for the purpose of the confrontation clause under Crawford. The pretext call was arranged, initiated by, and at the suggestion of the investigating officers for the purpose of gathering evidence and incriminating statements. The significant police involvement amounted to the kind of involvement by government officers in the production of testimony with an eye toward trial that the confrontation clause was intended to prevent. Because Wahlert was not available to testify at trial and Garrison did not have a prior opportunity to cross-examine him, the trial court erred in admitting his pretext call statements against Garrison. However, the evidence of Garrison’s guilt was overwhelming without regard to Wahlert’s statements during the pretext call, and therefore the evidence had an inconsequential impact, if any, on the jury’s verdict. The error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and reversal was therefore not required.