CALIFORNIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE NEWS: FOURTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL STRIKES DEFENDANT'S TESTIMONY AT SUPPRESSION MOTION AFTER TELLING DEFENDANT IT CAN BE USED AGAINST HIM AT TRIAL: SAY WHAT?
The California Fourth District Court of Appeal holds in this bizaare case that it was not error to strike the defendant's testimony at a suppression hearing where the prosecutor on cross examination went into the merits of the case, not just the search issue, as to how the defendant came to know about the marijuana and what she intended to do with it because it was relevant to her credibility on the suppression motion.
The defense counsel invoked the Fifth Amendment on cross examination, so the trial court struck her testimony. No alternative to striking the testimony was offered by the defense.
People v. Seminoff, 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 144 (4th Dist. January 29, 2008):
The prosecutor then asked her if she intended to sell the marijuana, and that prompted the same objection from defense counsel. Again, the court overruled the objection. It warned defense counsel that unless Bassett answered the prosecutor's questions, the court would strike her testimony in its entirety. The court then took a short break to allow defense counsel to converse with Bassett.
When the hearing resumed, defense counsel said Basset was willing to proceed with cross-examination on a question-by-question basis. He also indicated that, based on the court's previous rulings, she was willing to answer questions about whether she intended to sell the marijuana.
However, when the prosecutor asked her that question, defense counsel objected on both relevancy and Fifth Amendment grounds. In overruling the objections, the court stated “cross-examination should be allowed to reveal whether or not, among other things, [Bassett] has a coherent credible story about the events involved, whether or not she can remember details, whether or not she has an interest in the outcome.”
The court also told defense counsel that if Bassett continued to invoke her privilege against self-incrimination, it would have no choice but to strike her testimony. When defense counsel responded that Bassett was not going to answer the prosecutor's questions about the marijuana, the court did just that.
Comment: This case does not even cite Simmons that a defendant's testimony at a suppression hearing cannot be used at the trial unless the defendant testifies contrary to it. Here, the trial judge told the defendant that her testimony could be used against her at trial. This case is strange and unsupported under the Fifth and Fourth Amendments, and should be reviewed by the California Supreme Court.
But it won't. It should, at least, be depublished.
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