Deliberately Evasive Trial Testimony Case Example

In People v. Green (1971) 3 Cal.3d 981, a witness gave deliberately evasive trial testimony concerning how a large quantity of marijuana had come to be in his possession. The Supreme Court held that this testimony "must be deemed to constitute an implied denial" of the witness's prior statements in which he admitted that the defendant had supplied him with the drugs. (Id. at p. 989.) Therefore the witness's trial testimony was "materially inconsistent" with those prior statements, rendering them admissible under Evidence Code section 1235. (Green, supra, at p. 989.) The California Supreme Court held a witness's prior statements were properly admitted as inconsistent statements, even though the witness testified at trial that he could not remember the event, because the record showed the witness was deliberately evasive at trial. The Supreme Court stated: "In normal circumstances, the testimony of a witness that he does not remember an event is not 'inconsistent' with a prior statement by him describing that event. But justice will not be promoted by a ritualistic invocation of this rule of evidence. Inconsistency in effect, rather than contradiction in express terms, is the test for admitting a witness' prior statement , and the same principle governs the case of the forgetful witness. In contrast to People v. Sam (1969) 71 Cal.2d 194, in which the witness had no recollection whatever of the prior incident, here the witness admittedly remembered the events both leading up to and following the crucial moment when the marijuana came into his possession, and to that moment his testimony was equivocal. For the reasons stated above, we conclude that the witness's deliberate evasion of the latter point in his trial testimony must be deemed to constitute an implied denial that defendant did in fact furnish him with the marijuana as charged. His testimony was thus materially inconsistent with his preliminary hearing testimony and his extrajudicial declaration to a law enforcement officer, in both of which he specifically named defendant as his supplier. Accordingly, the two prior statements of this witness were properly admitted pursuant to Evidence Code section 1235." (People v. Green, supra, 3 Cal.3d at pp. 988-989.)