Monday, February 1, 2010
C.A.: Suspect’s Deal With Police Not Binding on Prosecutor
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A purported “cooperation agreement,” by which police promised a suspect that a new felony charge would be dropped if he helped them with other cases, is not binding on the prosecutor, the First District Court of Appeal held Friday.
Div. One reinstated charges against a Sonoma Superior Court defendant, saying the trial judge erred in dismissing the new case because the prosecutor was not a party to the agreement and the defendant had not relied on it to his detriment.
The court, in a partially published, redacted opinion, reversed Judge Dana B. Simonds’ order dismissing the new case, as well as probation violation charges, against a defendant identified only as C.S.A.
In a footnote, Justice Kathleen M. Banke explained that documents relating to the defendant’s motion to dismiss had been sealed in the trial and appellate courts, and that facts from which the defendant and others involved in the case could be identified were contained in an unredacted, sealed opinion that was also filed Friday.
It was undisputed, Banke explained, that prosecutors did not sign off on any deal between police and the defendant. Officers testified that they made no promises to the defendant, other than that they would advise prosecutors of the defendant’s cooperation, but Simonds found otherwise and the appellate court proceeded on the assumption that a cooperation agreement existed.
Banke, however, rejected the trial judge’s conclusion that the “agency relationship” between police and prosecutors means that an officer may have “apparent authority” to bind prosecutors to such an agreement.
Numerous federal cases, Banke noted, have held that prosecutors are not bound by agreements between police and suspects, unless the police had actual authority to enter into such an agreement.
The justice distinguished United States v. Carrillo (9th Cir. 1983) 709 F.2d 35, in which the court ordered dismissal of an indictment on the ground that the defendant had fulfilled his end of a bargain that he made with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and that the “government” breached the agreement by indicting him.
Banke noted that the Carrillo opinion did not address whether prosecutors were party to the cooperation agreement, or whether the defendant’s reliance on the agreement “had any constitutional consequence,” such as a waiver of the defendant’s rights to silence or to counsel, so that due process would require dismissal or some lesser sanction.
The Ninth Circuit, Banke added, has addressed these issues before and after Carrillo, and, like other courts, has held “that federal law enforcement officers have no authority to make promises about federal prosecution and that enforcement of an unauthorized promise under due process principles requires detrimental reliance of constitutional magnitude.”
C.S.A., the justice went on to say, had not shown any such reliance. The record, she explained, did not support the trial judge’s conclusion the defendant put himself at physical risk to obtain the information he promised the police; in fact, the defendant testified that he was not nervous or scared and “felt pretty good” about what he was doing.
Besides, she wrote, whatever fear the defendant may have had about acting as an informant “was not detrimental reliance of constitutional dimension implicating due process.”
The case is People v. C.S.A., 10 S.O.S. 534.
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