Chapter 5 - §4. Joint trials & right of confrontation

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§4. Joint trials & right of confrontation

In a joint jury trial, the prosecution can attempt to introduce the out-of-court statement of a nontestifying codefendant into evidence under the hearsay exception for party-opponents. See "Exception—Party's own admission," ch. 3-B, §5. If the codefendant's out-of-court statement incriminates the defendant, however, the general rule is that the prosecution cannot introduce the statement unless the trial is severed, the court empanels dual juries in a joint trial, or all references in the statement to the defendant can be effectively redacted. See Bruton v. U.S. (1968) 391 U.S. 123, 135-36; People v. Lewis (2008) 43 Cal.4th 415, 453-54, overruled on other grounds, People v. Black (2014) 58 Cal.4th 912; People v. Cummings (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1233, 1286-87, overruled on other grounds, People v. Merritt (2017) 2 Cal.5th 819; People v. Harris (1989) 47 Cal.3d 1047, 1070-71; People v. Aranda (1965) 63 Cal.2d 518, 530-31. This rule is commonly known as the Bruton-Aranda rule. See People v. Brown (2003) 31 Cal.4th 518, 537. Under the rule, even if the jury is given a limiting instruction directing them not to consider the nontestifying codefendant's admissions against the defendant, the introduction of the statement generally violates the defendant's right to confront the adverse witness. Bruton, 391 U.S. at 135-36; People v. Flinner (2020) 10 Cal.5th 686, 744; People v. Mendez (2019) 7 Cal.5th 680, 700-01; People v. Montes (2014) 58 Cal.4th 809, 867; Lewis, 43 Cal.4th at 534. The rule is inapplicable when defendants are jointly tried before two separate juries. See Flinner, 10 Cal.5th at 744-45.


The California Supreme Court recently declined to address whether an uncharged accomplice's statement could be subject to Bruton-Aranda. People v. Masters (2016) 62 Cal.4th 1019, 1049. In Masters, the defendant sought severance because he, not the prosecution, intended to introduce the statements of uncharged accomplices, which he claimed would prejudice his codefendants. Id. at 1048. The Court held that, regardless of whether the Bruton-Aranda rule would apply to such statements, the codefendants, not the defendant seeking to introduce the statements, would be prejudiced and therefore Bruton-Aranda did not apply to the defendant. Id. at 1049.

§4.1. Redacting statement. Under the Bruton-Aranda rule, to admit a nontestifying codefendant's out-of-court statement in a joint jury trial without violating a defendant's right of...

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