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A California Court Can Not Exclude Testimony of a Confession or Evidence that is Relevant and Supports a Defendant’s Innocence

Armenia Cudjo was charged with first degree murder while engaged in a robbery. Armenia Cudjo was arrested along with his brother, Gregory Budjo, involving the murder of Amelia Prokuda. A defense witness, John Culver, was prepared to testify at trial, that Gregory Budjo had confessed to him while they were in custody at the sheriff’s station and that Armenia Cudjo did not commit the murder. At trial, the defense was not allowed to introduce Mr. Culver’s testimony regarding Gregory Budjo’s confession because the Court ruled the confession to be hearsay. Armenia Cudjo was found guilty and appealed his conviction based on violation of his due process rights to present a valid defense.

The California Supreme Court found Mr. Culver’s testimony trustworthy, materially exculpatory and erroneously excluded at trial; however, there was no Constitutional violation. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disagreed with the California Supreme Court and ruled that a constitutional violation did occur. The Ninth Circuit explained that the right of an accused in a criminal trial has a right to a fair opportunity to defend against the state’s accusations. Most importantly, if a defendant’s rights involving the determination of guilt is implicated, the hearsay rule may not be applied to defeat the ends of justice. As such, the trial court’s exclusion of Mr. Culver’s testimony was incorrect, as it was directly relevant to evidence of innocence and necessary to a fair representation of Armenia Cudjo’s defense.

If you or a loved one is charged with murder, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling murder cases. Our experienced trial attorneys fully inform you of your options as they navigate through the complex court system for you. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or visit us at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

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