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Name: People v. Woods
Case #: G030494
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/21/2004
Subsequent History: 10/27/04: rev. den.
Summary

Woods was convicted of murder for instigating the hit of his business partner, McKenna, by the shooter, Sheridan. Sheridan confessed to the murder and implicated Woods. The prosecution made him a deal which involved a plea to manslaughter, but then did not call him as a witness. Sheridan’s attorney advised him to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify. Woods’ attorneys accused the prosecution of making Sheridan’s deal contingent on his not testifying for the defense. The trial court rejected proposed solutions such as offering Sheridan judicial immunity. It did allow latitude in the admission of Sheridan’s out of court statements. It found that there was no prosecutorial misconduct. Since it believed that the substance of Sheridan’s statements could come in through other witnesses, it ruled that Sheridan’s unavailability did not amount to a violation of Woods’ constitutional rights. On appeal, Woods argues that his conviction should be reversed because he was not permitted to call Sheridan as a witness due to prosecutorial misconduct. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed. Although the prosecutor’s actions were instrumental in keeping Sheridan from testifying, it was a legitimate tactical decision that was reasonably related to the prosecutor’s interest in ensuring that his key witness testified truthfully. Further, Woods could not prove that Sheridan’s testimony was a material component of his defense. The defense was given every opportunity to present Sheridan’s statements to the jury, and took advantage of those opportunities. The trial court properly found that Sheridan did not waive his Fifth Amendment rights by agreeing to the plea bargain, and properly determined that Sheridan’s unavailability did not deprive Woods of due process. Further, there was no Massiah violation when the police utilized Woods’ new business partner, Amos, to elicit incriminating statements from him. It was clear that the prosecution was still in the investigatory fact-finding stage when it enlisted Amos to talk to Woods. Therefore, the right to counsel had not yet attached.