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People v. Garcia

Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two

November 1, 2018, Opinion Filed


Case Summary


HOLDINGS: [1]-A trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding a defense witness's expert testimony concerning the reliability of eyewitness identifications where ample other evidence substantially corroborated an eyewitness's identification of defendant, giving it independent reliability and substantially reducing the probative value of the defense witness's testimony, and the court thus reasonably concluded that the probative value of the testimony was substantially outweighed by the probability its admission would consume undue court time; [2]-Senate Bill No. 1393 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.) applies retroactively to all cases or judgments of conviction in which a five-year term was imposed at sentencing, based on a prior serious felony conviction, provided the judgment of conviction is not final when Senate Bill No. 1393 becomes effective on January 1, 2019.


Matter remanded for resentencing and judgment affirmed in all other respects.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Evidence > ... > Testimony > Expert Witnesses > Criminal Proceedings

Criminal Law & Procedure > Commencement of Criminal Proceedings > Eyewitness Identification

HN1  Criminal Proceedings

Expert opinion testimony is admissible on subjects that are sufficiently beyond common experience that the opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact. Evid. Code, § 801, subd. (a). In particular, expert testimony concerning the reliability of eyewitness identification evidence is admissible to inform the jury of certain factors that may affect such an identification in a typical case. The psychological factors and other circumstances that may affect an eyewitness identification are numerous and are listed in CALCRIM No. 315. These factors include whether the witness knew or had previous contact with the person the witness identified, how well the witness could see the person, whether the witness was under stress when the witness observed the person, whether the witness was asked to pick the person out of a group or from a photographic or physical lineup, how certain the witness was when the witness identified the person, whether the witness and person were of different races, and whether there were any other circumstances that affected the witness's ability to make an accurate identification of the person. CALCRIM No. 315.


Evidence > Relevance > Exclusion of Relevant Evidence > Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time

Criminal Law & Procedure > Defenses > Right to Present

Criminal Law & Procedure > Trials > Witnesses > Presentation

HN2  Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time

A trial court has discretion to exclude otherwise relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability its admission will consume undue time, mislead the jury, or confuse the issues. Evid. Code, § 352. Although a defendant has a general constitutional right to offer a defense through the testimony of his or her witnesses, a state court's exclusion of defense evidence under ordinary rules of evidence—including § 352—generally does not infringe upon this right.


Evidence > ... > Testimony > Expert Witnesses > Criminal Proceedings

Evidence > Admissibility > Procedural Matters > Rulings on Evidence

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Standards of Review > Abuse of Discretion > Evidence

Criminal Law & Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > Deferential Review

Criminal Law & Procedure > Commencement of Criminal Proceedings > Eyewitness Identification

HN3  Criminal Proceedings

The decision to admit or exclude expert testimony on psychological factors affecting eyewitness identification remains primarily a matter within the trial court's discretion. It is expected that such evidence will not often be needed, and in the usual case the appellate court will continue to defer to the trial court's discretion in this matter. Yet deference is not abdication. When an eyewitness identification of the defendant is a key element of the prosecution's case but is not substantially corroborated by evidence giving it independent reliability, and the defendant offers qualified expert testimony on specific psychological factors shown by the record that could have affected the accuracy of the identification but are not likely to be fully known to or understood by the jury, it will ordinarily be error to exclude that testimony. Under McDonald, an appellate court reviews a trial court's ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony on the psychological factors affecting eyewitness identifications for an abuse of discretion. The exclusion of such expert testimony is justified only if there is other evidence that substantially corroborates the eyewitness identification and gives it independent reliability.

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28 Cal. App. 5th 961 ; 239 Cal. Rptr. 3d 558 ; 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 993 ; 2018 WL 5668807

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. RICHARD GARCIA, Defendant and Appellant.

Subsequent History: Review denied by People v. Garcia, 2019 Cal. LEXIS 255 (Cal., Jan. 16, 2019)

Prior History:  [1] APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County, No. FVI1501152, John M. Tomberlin, Judge.

People v. Garcia, 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6783 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Oct. 3, 2018)

Disposition: Affirmed with directions.