People v. Meredith

631 P.2d 46, 29 Cal. 3d 682, 175 Cal. Rptr. 612 (1981)

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People v. Meredith

California Supreme Court
631 P.2d 46, 29 Cal. 3d 682, 175 Cal. Rptr. 612 (1981)

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Facts

The police arrested Michael Meredith (defendant) for killing and robbing David Wade. The police also arrested Frank Earl Scott (defendant), believing he had conspired with Meredith. Attorney James Schenk represented Scott. Scott told Schenk that he had picked up Wade’s wallet at the crime scene and brought it home, where he had tried to burn it in his kitchen sink. Scott tossed the partially burned wallet in a burn barrel behind his house. Schenk hired an investigator to look for the wallet. The investigator found the wallet in the burn barrel as described and brought it to Schenk. Schenk gave the wallet to the police, saying only that he thought it had belonged to Wade. The location where the wallet had been found was critical to the prosecution’s case against Scott. Both Schenk and the investigator were subpoenaed to testify at Scott’s preliminary hearing. Schenk admitted that the investigator had given him the wallet but refused to say more, asserting attorney-client privilege. Ultimately, when threatened with contempt, Schenk confirmed that his client, Scott, was his sole information source regarding the wallet’s location. At trial, the investigator testified that he had found the wallet in the barrel behind Scott’s house and that Schenk had told him where to look for it. Scott was convicted of murder and robbery. The appellate court affirmed Scott’s conviction. Scott appealed to the California Supreme Court, arguing that the investigator’s testimony about the wallet should have been excluded because that knowledge resulted from a privileged attorney-client communication.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tobriner, J.)

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