Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Accomplice’s Statements to Jailhouse Informant Admissible—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has upheld the attempted murder convictions of two men implicated by a co-conspirator in a conversation with a jailhouse informant.
In doing so, it adopted the view expressed by federal courts that statements made to an informant are not testimonial in nature and may be used at trial without offending the defendant’s constitutional right to confront witness.
The appellants were Brandon Ray Arauz and Ulises Kline, members of a gang affiliated with the Mexican Mafia. They shot at two pedestrians, members of a rival street gang, from a moving automobile.
The co-conspirator whose statements were used was Jose Velasquez, the driver of the car.
Velasquez, booked on drug charges, told of the drive-by shooting to a paid informant planted in the adjoining cell at a Ventura jail. A tape recording of the conversation was admitted at trial.
With some modifications of the sentences, the convictions were affirmed Thursday by Div. Eight, in an opinion by Justice Kenneth Yegan. The jurist wrote:
“Where, as here, an accomplice inculpates himself and his codefendant to a fellow inmate/informant, his statements, if trustworthy, are admissible in the codefendant’s trial. Such statements are declarations against penal interest, are not ‘testimonial,’ and their admission does not violate the confrontation clause….”
Yegan said that Velasquez’s “specificity, including naming both appellants as the actual shooters, show ‘trustworthiness.’ ”
He went on to say:
“Federal courts have repeatedly held that statements unwittingly made to a [sic] informant are not ‘testimonial’ for confrontation clause purposes….We agree with the rule and rationale of these cases. We hold that statements unwittingly made to an informant are not “testimonial” within the meaning of the confrontation clause. The last thing Velasquez expected was for his statement to be repeated in court.”
The case is People v. Arauz, 2 Crim. No. B230053.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company