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Name: Slovik v. Yates
Case #: 06-55867
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 10/06/2008

A defendant’s Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights are violated when he is prohibited from cross examining a witness and such examination is appropriate. Appellant was charged with two counts of felony assault and two counts of misdemeanor battery, all of which resulted from a barroom brawl. Appellant claimed self-defense. The evidence presented was the conflicting testimony of the participants and witnesses, individuals whom even the State described as not being picked from a Sunday school choir. When one of the prosecution witnesses testified that he was not currently on probation, the defense attempted to impeach him using a form establishing that the witness was on probation for five years for a DUI. However, the court sustained the prosecution’s Evidence Code section 352 objection, finding that the inquiry would be too time consuming. The jury convicted appellant of assault likely to produce great bodily injury, simple assault, and battery, and he was sentenced to prison for 35 years to life under the Three Strikes Law. The appellate court found that the section 352 evidentiary standard was the incorrect standard. Under the correct constitutional standard, appellant met his burden in establishing a violation of the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. Under the facts of this case, it could not be said that the error was harmless as the witness’ testimony was crucial to the prosecution’s case and appellant had a right to confront him about his apparent lie. With the anticipated evidence, the jury might have formed a belief that the witness was willing to lie under oath, weakening the prosecution’s case. The court issued an order granting appellant’s habeas petition as to the assault conviction.