Evidence Regarding the Circumstances of Defendant's Confession

In Crane v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 683, the case against the defendant rested almost entirely on the defendant's confession. (Crane, supra, at p. 685.) The defendant sought to introduce evidence regarding the circumstances of the confession, such as the length of the interrogation and the manner in which it was conducted, to show that the confession was not credible. (Id. at pp. 685-686.) The trial court excluded this evidence. (Id. at p. 686.) The Supreme Court concluded the ruling violated the defendant's Constitutional rights. The court explained the lower courts erred in foreclosing the defendant's "efforts to introduce testimony about the environment in which the police secured his confession . . . . Evidence about the manner in which a confession was obtained is often highly relevant to its reliability and credibility." (Id. at p. 691.) The court further noted the respondent had not "advanced any rational justification for the wholesale exclusion of this body of potentially exculpatory evidence," and the decision had to be reversed. (Ibid.) The People v. Page (1991) 2 Cal.App.4th 161 court distinguished Crane because, unlike the defendant in Crane, the Page defendant was not subject to a blanket exclusion of proffered testimony about the circumstances of the defendant's confession. (Page, supra, at p. 185.) In Page, the defendant was allowed to present evidence regarding the "physical and psychological environment in which the confession was obtained." (Id. at pp. 185-186.) Further, in Page, the court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the expert's testimony to general factors relating to false confessions. Referring to People v. McDonald (1984) 37 Cal.3d 351, overruled on another ground by People v. Mendoza (2000) 23 Cal.4th 896, 914, which concerned expert testimony on the accuracy of eyewitness identifications, the Page court noted the California Supreme Court "did not hold that a court must permit the expert to discuss the particular evidence in the case or give his opinion on the reliability of particular eyewitness testimony . . . . Moreover, the court seemed to indicate the expert would usually be limited to discussing general factors bearing on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony in a 'typical case.'" (Page, supra, 2 Cal.4th at p. 188.) The Page court explained that, consistent with McDonald, the trial court had limited the expert's testimony to "a discussion of 'certain factors that may affect the reliability of a confession in a typical case.' In our view, nothing in McDonald or the Evidence Code required the court to permit the expert to discuss the particular evidence in this case or to give his opinion regarding the overall reliability of the confession." (Page, supra, at p. 188.) The Page court additionally explained that "an expert's thorough description of the general principles to be applied in a given case may make additional (and more specific) expert testimony superfluous . . . . In such a case, '"there is no necessity for additional expert evidence, and to receive it would tend to suggest that the judge and jury may shift responsibility for decision to the witness ."' " (Page, supra, at pp. 188-189.) The court thus concluded the expert "outlined the factors which might influence a person to give a false statement or confession during an interrogation. Having been educated concerning those factors, the jurors were as qualified as the professor to determine if those factors played a role in the defendant's confession, and whether, given those factors, his confession was false." (Id. at p. 189.)