Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Court of Appeal Declares:
Non-Testimonial Inculpatory Statements of Co-Defendants Are Now Admissible
Says Recorded Comments by Non-Testifying Accomplices Need Not Be Redacted to Remove References to Defendant So Long as Jurors Are Told to Use Them Only Against Co-Defendants
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The “Aranda/Bruton doctrine,” under which a defendant jointly tried with a co-conspirator is entitled to have an inculpatory extrajudicial statement of a nontestifying co-defendant redacted to remove references to the defendant, was narrowed yesterday by this district’s Court of Appeal, which declared it inapplicable to nontestimonial statements.
Div. Two, in an opinion by Justice Brian M. Hoffstadt, posed the question:
“Has the United States Supreme Court’s subsequent narrowing of the Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses to protect against only ‘testimonial’ statements—as accomplished in Crawford v. Washington (2004)…and its progeny—also narrowed the Aranda/Bruton doctrine?”
“ We hold that the answer is ‘yes.’”
The doctrine is derived from the California Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in People v. Aranda and the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Bruton v. United States.
“The Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses has evolved since the Aranda/Bruton doctrine came into being,” Hoffstadt observed.
Applying Crawford to the fact situation in the case before the court, he declared that statements made between defendant Michael Shane Washington’s co-defendants which were surreptitiously recorded in a jail cell and implicated Washington were nontestimonial and were properly admitted at the joint trial. He noted that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eleanor J. Hunter admonished jurors that the statements were not to be used against Washington.
Hoffstadt noted that Washington “strenuously argues” that Crawford should not be applied, reciting:
“Specifically, he asserts that a codefendant’s confession that directly implicates a defendant is just as “powerfully incriminating”—and, thus, is just as difficult for a jury to put out of its mind notwithstanding an instruction to do so—regardless of whether that confession qualifies as testimonial or nontestimonial under Crawford. Drawing such a distinction, defendant reasons, is ‘illogical.’ ”
“This argument is not without persuasive force, but ultimately lacks merit because the Aranda/Bruton doctrine is grounded exclusively in the confrontation clause and can extend no farther than the metes and bounds of the clause defined by the United States Supreme Court.”
Hoffstadt declined to “breathe life back into the Aranda/Bruton doctrine when the codefendant’s confession is nontestimonial” by re-erecting it under the Due Process Clause. He said that would “put us at odds with the weight of California and federal authority.”
The case arises from Washington fatally shooting a rival gang member. His co-defendants accompanied him to the residence of the victim.
The case is People v. Washington, 17 S.O.S. 4519.
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