State ex rel. Romley v. Superior Court (Roper)
In State ex rel. Romley v. Superior Court (Roper), 172 Ariz. 232, 836 P.2d 445 (App. 1992), the defendant was charged with aggravated assault for stabbing her husband. Id. at 237, 836 P.2d at 450.
The defendant wife alleged that her husband had multiple personalities, some of which were violent, and that she had stabbed him in self-defense when he was attacking her while manifesting one of these violent personalities. Id.
The defendant's assertions were buttressed by her husband's multiple arrests and at least one conviction for domestic violence in which the defendant had been the victim, husband's extensive psychiatric treatment over the years, and that it had been the defendant, not her husband, who had made the 9-1-1 call requesting help on the night of the stabbing. Id.
Because the defendant had attended the treatment sessions between her husband and at least one of his treating psychiatrists, she asked that the court find a general waiver as to all of her husband's treatment records and order them to be disclosed to assist in establishing her justification defense. Id. at 234-35, 836 P.2d at 447-48.
The court, while declining to find a general waiver with respect to her husband's treatment records, agreed to review the records in camera to determine if any should be disclosed.
The State petitioned for special action review of the trial court's decision. Id.
Upon accepting jurisdiction, the Court noted that the resolution of the question required a careful balancing of the defendant's federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial with the victim's constitutional right to be free from pretrial discovery initiated by the defendant. Id. at 236, 836 P.2d at 449.
After setting forth the factors that govern such balancing, and the unique facts of Roper in which the defendant had attended at least some of the victim's treatment sessions, we ordered that the trial court conduct an in camera review of the victim's medical records to determine if any needed to be turned over to the defense in light of these competing concerns. Id. at 240-41, 836 P.2d at 453-54.
In State ex rel. Romley v. Superior Court (Roper), after the defendant made a showing that she needed her husband's psychiatric records to attempt to demonstrate that she acted in self defense, the trial court granted the motion. 172 Ariz. at 234-35, 836 P.2d at 447-48.
The Court agreed, but ordered the trial court to first inspect the records in camera to determine which records were essential to the presentation of the defense of self-defense. 172 Ariz. at 235, 836 P.2d at 448.
The Court noted that a defendant's due process and confrontation rights are protected when a defendant makes a showing that the victim or the victim's representative has information that "is both essential to the defense and that requires pretrial disclosure to have value to the defense," and the court inspects the information in camera to assess the necessity of its disclosure. See id. at 239-41, 836 P.2d at 452-54 (Lankford, J. concurring).
This procedure balances a defendant's right to present an effective defense against the victim's right to be protected from unnecessary, out-of-court contact with a defendant. See id.