Case Law Concerning Ability to Present Defense

A defendant has a fundamental constitutional right to present a defense, including the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses who testify against him. (People v. Burrell-Hart (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 593, 599.) "The right of confrontation and cross-examination is an essential and fundamental requirement for the kind of fair trial which is this country's constitutional goal." (Pointer v. Texas (1965) 380 U.S. 400, 405 13 L.Ed.2d 923, 927.) Cross-examination remains "'the "greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of the truth."' " (People v. Brock (1985) 38 Cal.3d 180, 197.) Neither the confrontation clause nor state law, however, affords the right to unlimited cross-examination. (People v. Sully (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1195, 1219-1220.) Trial courts retain wide latitude to impose reasonable limits on cross-examination without violating the confrontation clause to prevent prejudice and confusion of the issues or to curtail interrogation that is repetitive or marginally relevant. (People v. Morse (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 620, 642.) The ordinary rules of evidence, including the exercise of the court's discretion pursuant to Evidence Code section 352, do not compromise a defendant's right to a fair trial or to present his defense. (Id. at pp. 641-642.) "A criminal defendant states a violation of the Confrontation Clause by showing that he was prohibited from engaging in otherwise appropriate cross-examination designed . . . 'to expose to the jury the facts from which jurors . . . could appropriately draw inferences relating to the reliability of the witness.'" (Delaware v. Van Arsdall (1986) 475 U.S. 673, 680 89 L.Ed.2d 674, 684, quoting Davis v. Alaska (1974) 415 U.S. 308, 318 39 L.Ed.2d 347, 355.) When the cross-examination prohibited by the trial court was intended to attack the witness's credibility, a defendant must establish, on appeal, that the prohibited cross-examination would have produced a "'"significantly different impression"'" of the witness's credibility. (People v. Hillhouse (2002) 27 Cal.4th 469, 494.)