People v. Spence

212 Cal. App. 4th 478, 151 Cal. Rptr. 3d 374 (2012)

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People v. Spence

California Court of Appeal
212 Cal. App. 4th 478, 151 Cal. Rptr. 3d 374 (2012)

Facts

James Spence (defendant) was charged with sexually assaulting then 10-year-old D. The court granted the prosecutor’s request to have a therapy dog and Ms. Figueroa, a victim advocate from the prosecutor’s office, on the stand during D.’s testimony. The court knew D. had gotten upset when interviewed by medical staff, and the prosecutor was concerned D. would melt down on the stand. Likening the dog to a teddy bear, the court stated that the animal’s presence would not be prejudicial because the dog was well behaved and would be unnoticeable once D. took the stand. The court did not admonish Figueroa against swaying the witness or caution the jury that Figueroa was not the witness but did instruct the jury to base its decision on the evidence and not sympathy. Spence was convicted and argued on appeal that the support system violated his due-process and Confrontation Clause rights. Spence maintained that only one support person was permitted to accompany D. to the stand and the court’s necessity findings were not specific enough to justify the presence of support persons.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Huffman, J.)

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