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Name: People v. Watson
Case #: A098183
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/10/2003
Subsequent History: Depublished 3/24/04

Appellant was convicted of one count of theft by false pretenses from an elderly person under Penal Code section 368 against each of four victims, as well as four counts of burglary for entering their homes. One of the victims was unavailable to testify at trial because he was suffering from dementia. A videotape of his statements made to investigators was admitted over appellant’s objection pursuant to Evidence Code section 1380, a provision adopted in 1999 to facilitate the introduction of hearsay statements by victims of elder abuse. In this appeal, appellant challenged the constitutionality of that section. The appellate court here rejected that argument, finding that the statute can be applied without violating the constitutionally protected right of confrontation. However, here the trial court erred when it found that the statements were made under circumstances which indicated their trustworthiness. The prosecution failed to make that showing as required by the statute and by Sixth Amendment standards. The only evidence was that the declarant was competent to testify, which is not a sufficient guarantee of trustworthiness. The erroneous admission of the videotaped interview was prejudicial, and reversal was required.