Saturday, April 13, 2013

People v. Meredith case brief

People v. Meredith case brief summary
29 Cal. 3d 682, 631 P.2d 46, 175 Cal. Rptr. 612 (1981)

Appellants challenged their convictions in the Superior Court of Sacramento County (California) for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery on the basis that Cal. Evid. Code § 954 barred defense investigator testimony concerning the location of evidence.

OVERVIEW: Appellants were convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. One appellant's convictions depended on the theory that he conspired with the other appellant to bring about the killing and robbery. The prosecution rested this theory on the location where the victim's wallet was found. A defense investigator made the discovery of the wallet's location after appellant had divulged it to his counsel.

The principal issue on appeal was whether observation of the wallet's location, which was the product of a privileged communication, finds protection under the attorney-client privilege, specified in Cal. Evid. Code § 954.

The court, in light of policy considerations, held that whenever defense counsel removes or alters evidence, the privilege does not bar revelation of the original location or condition of the evidence in question. The court modified appellant's sentencing.

The client has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between client and lawyer. Under that section one who seeks to assert the privilege must establish that a confidential communication occurred during the course of the attorney-client relationship

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the convictions, because the trial court did not err in admitting the evidence of the wallet's location since defense counsel had removed and altered it prior to disclosing it to the prosecution; the court also upheld modification of appellants' sentencing.

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