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Name: People v. Washington
Case #: B270506
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/05/2017

Admission in joint murder trial of codefendants’ unredacted jail conversation implicating all defendants in the crime was proper because Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 confined the reach of the Aranda/Bruton doctrine to testimonial statements. Defendant and two other Blood gang members confronted a rival Crips gang member; defendant shot and killed the rival. All three defendants were charged with murder. At trial, the court admitted portions of a jailhouse recording between the two codefendants, which implicated defendant in the murder. The court instructed the jury not to consider the recording against defendant. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder. He appealed, arguing his trial attorney was ineffective for not moving to sever his trial from that of his codefendants, which would have rendered the jailhouse recording inadmissible. Held: Affirmed. Under Aranda/Bruton, a trial court may generally not allow a jury in a joint criminal trial of a defendant and codefendant to hear the unredacted confession of the codefendant that also directly implicates the defendant, unless the codefendant testifies and is subject to cross-examination. This doctrine, which rests on the Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, has evolved since it came into being. In 2004, Crawford narrowed the reach of the confrontation clause from all out-of-court statements admitted for their truth to only those out-of-court statements that qualify as “testimonial,” and subsequent cases have confirmed the clause has no application to nontestimonial statements (Whorton v. Bockting (2007) 549 U.S. 406). Here, the jailhouse conversation between the codefendants was nontestimonial (a point conceded by the defense) because it was not obtained for the primary purpose of proving past events potentially relevant to a future criminal prosecution. With the limiting instruction, the conversation was properly admitted.

Admission of codefendants’ jailhouse conversation at joint trial with an appropriate limiting instruction did not violate due process. Neither Aranda nor Bruton relied upon due process as the basis for the doctrine they announced, and redesignating the Aranda/Bruton doctrine as based on due process when applied to nontestimonial statements would be contrary to the weight of state and federal authorities. Further, it would improperly substitute procedural due process when a particular Amendment already speaks to, and rejects, a procedural protection. Finally, use of due process in this context is inappropriate because nontestimonial statements are more likely to be trustworthy, and due process is often concerned with safeguarding the reliability of evidence.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: