In re Lucero L.

22 Cal. 4th 1227, 96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 56 (2000)

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In re Lucero L.

California Supreme Court
22 Cal. 4th 1227, 96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 56 (2000)

Facts

Lucero L. was the daughter of Otilio L. (defendant) and Yolanda E. Lucero had three half-sisters who were Otilio’s stepdaughters. San Diego County (the county) (plaintiff) received a report that Otilio was sexually abusing Lucero, who was not quite three years old. Lucero, although her language abilities were limited because of her young age, indicated to a social worker with words and gestures that Otilio was sexually abusing her, which one of her half-sisters corroborated. The social worker prepared a social study, which was a written report prepared by a social worker and provided to all dependency-matter parties. The social study contained Lucero’s statements to the social worker. The county filed a dependency petition in juvenile court alleging that Otilio sexually abused Lucero, among other allegations. The court held a jurisdictional hearing to determine whether Lucero was a dependent child as a result of sex abuse and therefore under the jurisdiction of the court. Lucero was legally incompetent to testify, but the county introduced the social study containing Lucero’s statements. Otilio moved to exclude Lucero’s statements from evidence, arguing that the statements were hearsay. The rules of evidence contained a child-dependency hearsay exception (CDHE) that applied to statements that were (1) made by children under the age of 12 who were the subject of a jurisdictional hearing and (2) contained in a social study. The court found that the CDHE applied and admitted Lucero’s statements, finding that Lucero’s statements possessed sufficient indicia of reliability. Based solely on Lucero’s statements contained in the social study, the court found that Otilio sexually abused Lucero and that Lucero was within the court’s jurisdiction. Otilio and Yolanda appealed, arguing that the admission of Lucero’s statements violated Otilio’s due-process rights. The appellate court affirmed, and the California Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

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