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Name: People v. Cervantes
Case #: B150919
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/29/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 8/11/04

Incriminating statements made by a defendant to his neighbor were admissible at trial against his codefendants. The three defendants here were charged with first degree murder; Cervantes and Morales were tried before the same jury, while Martinez was tried before a separate jury. Both juries heard evidence regarding Morales’s statements to his neighbor, a nurse, whom he consulted regarding injuries he received during the commission of the offense. In these statements Morales implicated himself in the murder, but put most of the blame on his two codefendants. On appeal, Cervantes and Martinez argued that admission of…

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Name: Murdoch v. Castro
Case #: 02-55650
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/05/2004

A ruling which barred the defendant from seeing or using a purportedly exculpatory letter written by a witness to the witness’s attorney may have denied the defendant his constitutional right to confront witnesses. In this federal habeas proceeding, the district court had applied California’s attorney-client privilege rule to prevent the defendant or his counsel from reviewing a letter in which an accomplice who testified against defendant at trial allegedly told his attorney that defendant was not guilty of the offense. The Ninth Circuit held that where the confrontation clause and the attorney-client privilege are squarely at odds, evidentiary…

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Name: People v. Seijas
Case #: B160209
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 02/24/2004
Subsequent History: Mod. 116 CA4th 1159b; Rev. granted 5/19/04: S123790

The trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to introduce the preliminary hearing testimony of a witness erroneously permitted to assert a Fifth Amendment privilege. A minor who witnessed the shooting in this case testified at the preliminary hearing, but at trial he asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination due to his potential criminal liability for lying to the police. The District Attorney refused to grant him transactional or use immunity for his testimony, and the trial court subsequently found the minor to be unavailable as a witness and permitted the prosecution to introduce his preliminary…

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Name: Crawford v. Washington
Case #: 10-Feb
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 03/08/2004
Subsequent History: cross cites: 124 S. Ct. 1354; 158 L. Ed. 2d 177

The introduction of a witness statement given under police interrogation violated the defendant’s confrontation rights under the Sixth Amendment. The defendant was tried for assault and attempted murder, and after his wife asserted her spousal privilege and refused to testify at his trial, the state introduced the recorded statement that she had given to police during interrogation. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court held that the use of the wife’s statement violated the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses, holding that where testimonial statements are at issue, confrontation is the only indicium of reliability sufficient…

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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…

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Name: Bailey v. Rae
Case #: 02-35144
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/13/2003
Subsequent History: None

At appellant's sentencing for multiple sexual offenses committed against a mentally disabled minor, it became clear that certain potentially exculpatory documents from the Children's Services Division file, including therapy reports concerning the victim's mental capacity, were not disclosed to the defense. The convictions required that the victim be incapable of consent due to a mental defect, and the therapy reports showed that the victim knew the difference between a "good touch" and a "bad touch" and understood that she had the right to say "no" to an inappropriate touch. The appellate court here reversed the district court's denial…

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Name: People v. Schmaus
Case #: B147015
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 06/12/2003
Subsequent History: None

Schmaus, Beattie, and Black were convicted of first degree murder while lying in wait. At their joint trial, Glenn testified that he and the defendants killed the victim because he committed a sex offense. Before trial, the prosecutor moved in limine to admit Schmaus’s statement to Arce that he, Glenn, and "another guy" killed the victim. Schmaus did not testify at trial and was therefore never cross-examined. The trial court admitted the testimony of Arce, but instructed the jury it was not to consider the statements against any defendant not involved in the conversation. …

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Name: People v. Kons
Case #: C039657
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/05/2003
Subsequent History: None

The attempted murder victim in this case made two statements to police officers about who shot him. The first identified "Mad Ball" as the shooter; the second was a statement picking appellant out of a photo lineup. Only the second statement was introduced at appellant’s trial, pursuant to Evidence Code section 1370. Here, the appellate court reversed the conviction, holding that admission of the second statement violated appellant’s right to confront witnesses against him. The statement did not contain the requisite particularized guarantees of trustworthiness to overcome presumed unreliability. It was not a spontaneous declaration;…

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Name: People v. Murphy
Case #: H021790
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/15/2003
Subsequent History: None

The trial court permitted the adult alleged victim in a sexual assault case to testify from behind a one-way glass screen which prevented her from seeing the defendant but permitted the defendant and the jury to see her demeanor. The court permitted its use after one day of testimony during which the witness hyperventilated, cried, sobbed, and sometimes made keening noises while testifying. The witness had apparently been treated by paramedics during the preliminary hearing. The appellate court held that the trial court’s action violated the constitutional right to confrontation without holding an evidentiary hearing to determine…

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Name: People v. Armstead
Case #: D036223
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/02/2002
Subsequent History: Rev. denied 12/18/02.

A court may not change the scope or basis of admissibility of evidence after the case is submitted to the jury because fundamental fairness requires that a defendant be able to address the admissibility and purpose of evidence before the case is ready for argument, instruction and deliberation. Without such due process, a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel is violated. It is also a denial of the Sixth Amendment right to confront the evidence. Here the defendant was charged with multiple counts of robbery and the jury asked questions regarding whether it should base…

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