Monday, July 31, 2017

People v. Arredondo (Cal. Ct. App. - July 28, 2017)

There's a lot here to consider.  A lot.

The majority opinion spans 69 pages.  The dissent is quite lengthy as well.

I'll let the introduction to the dissent set up the issue:

"The relevant facts from trial span a mere three and a half pages of transcript, from which we can glean only that the court allowed an 18-year-old witness—who already had a support person—to testify behind a monitor that entirely blocked defendant’s view of her and vice versa. The court did so to make the witness “more comfortable” because she had become emotional when taking the stand. However, the court did not hear evidence from anyone—medical professionals, for example, or even simply the witness herself— as to the cause and degree of her distress, and the record does not support an implied finding the distress was severe enough to warrant such an invasive accommodation. As I will explain, the trial court’s handling of this situation did not provide a sound basis for depriving Arredondo of his constitutional right."

I'll add to that desription the facts that (1) it's a molestation case, (2) the witnesses were often emotional, and (3) the defendant was sentenced to over 300 years in prison.

There are weighty concerns on both sides.  On the one hand, you definitely want to let the defendant see the critical witnesses against him.  On the other hand, you definitely don't want to make it totally traumatic for witnesses to testify.

The competing views here take a different approach to the appropriate balance.

Check 'em out and see which one comes closer to your own view.