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There is no privilege under Cal. Evid. Code § 1024, if the psychotherapist has reasonable cause to believe that the patient is in such mental or emotional condition as to be dangerous to himself or to the person or property of another and that disclosure of the communication is necessary to prevent the threatened danger.
George Herbert Wharton struck the back of his girlfriend's head three times with a hammer, killing her. Wharton hid the body in a barrel, and stole her personal belongings. The police investigated the victim's disappearance, and entered her home. The police encountered the barrel, opened it, and discovered the victim's body. Wharton was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Wharton waived his Miranda rights, and confessed to the murder. After Wharton was found guilty of the murder, he challenged his conviction.
Was Wharton’s conversations with his psychotherapist admitted at trial, a violation of his psychotherapist-patient privilege under Cal. Evid. Code §1024?
The court held that Wharton’s conversations with his psychotherapist admitted at trial, was not a violation of his psychotherapist-patient privilege under Cal. Evid. Code §1024, because disclosure of the communications was necessary to protect the victim, and disclosure was not itself necessary, but had triggered the therapist's decision to warn the victim. The court also determined that Wharton was not entitled to a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct in examining witnesses; during voir dire, or his closing arguments. The court further stated that the jury was properly given jury instructions, and Wharton did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel.