June 19, 2008 By Wallin & Klarich

Prosecution must make favorable material evidence available to defendants. California court affirms defendants constitutional right to exculpatory evidence.

In the case People v. Ubire, the prosecution failed to give the criminal defense a video taken during the only physical medical examination of the alleged victim. 2008 DJDAR 7325. The victim alleged that the defendant, the alleged victim’s Grandfather, had raped and sexually assaulted her several times from age 5 to 11. Id. However, the alleged victim had many conflicting accusatory statements against the defendant. Id. Due to the inconsistencies, the testimony of medical experts became critical to the jurors determining the outcome of the case.

Three medical experts testified at trial. The first medical expert was the woman who conducted the examination and videotaped it. She concluded the victim did suffer penetrating trauma based on the examination. Id. at 7331. The second medical expert, called by the defense, concluded “with reasonable medical certainty this [penetrating trauma] did not happen.” Id. at 7332. Further, the second expert for the defense testified that one of the pictures the other medical experts are relying on is not even a picture of the hymen. Id. The defense’s expert based this opinion on photos taken during the examination. The third and final expert called by the prosecution testified that there was penetrating trauma and it was not a close call. Id. at 7332. However, this testimony was again based on pictures taken during the physical examination of the alleged victim. Id. at 7332.

On May 21, 2008 the California Court of Appeal determined that prosecution’s nondisclosure of video taken during medical examination of the alleged and only victim violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. People v. Ubire, 2008 DJDAR 7325. The court concluded 1) The video was favorable to the defendant, 2) the evidence was suppressed, and 3) the absence of the video did not allow the defendant to have a fair trial.

The video is ‘favorable’ if it either helps the defendant or hurts the prosecution by impeaching one of its witnesses. Id. at 7335. In this case the video examination could have proven the defense’s expert point that the picture that the other experts were relying on was no proper. The evidence was suppressed even though it was not suppressed out of bad faith and even though the video was on in the possession of the prosecution. Id. at 7336. Because the physical examiner was acting on the government’s behalf did not disclose the videotape the evidence was suppressed. Id. at 7336. Finally, the absence of the video did not allow the defendant to have a fair trial because the victim’s statements were so inconsistent with her behavior and contrary to what many other family member witnesses testified to, the case hinged on the medical testimony. This video would have aided in clearing up the medical experts testimony.

In People v. Uribe, the California Court maintains protection of individual rights afforded under the United States Constitution. Wallin & Klarich has developed and continues to develop a unique understanding of how these cases work. Defending sex crime charges is a complex and specialized type of criminal defense. Few criminal defense lawyers have the experience, training and resources necessary to win a sex-related case. Wallin & Klarich attorneys have the experience, training and resources to aggressively and thoroughly defend sex crimes. Visit us at www.wklaw.com

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