Bad Case Alert ***People v. Bennett; 2009 DJ DAR 1429; DJ, 1/30/09; Cal. Supremes***
Well, California, the leading State in opposition to Constitutional justice, is at it again. In the Bennett case, the DA repeatedly asked witnesses whether the sheriff's DNA lab could have been ordered to release samples to the defense for testing. The trial judge actually sustained the defense objection, as this was an improper question designed to shift the burden of proof to the defense. It’s a close equivalent to asking witnesses whether or not the defendant has the ability to testify or produce other evidence. Of course, the rule used to be that the State had to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant had no obligation to prove (or even disprove) anything. With the Bennett case, that long established rule is under attack.
Bennett was a death penalty case so, of course, if the Supremes sanction this type of questioning when a life is at stake, they have no problem with it when the stakes are less. And when the stakes are less, more DA mischief can abound.
In most misdemeanor cases, the DA playbook is to stand up during jury selection and tell the prospective jury that the case before them is “only a misdemeanor,” about how this isn’t CSI and there will be no black lights or DNA, etc., and that county resources are precious and the DA can’t be expected to follow all leads and test all evidence. I’ve heard it a hundred times.
And now we have the Bennett case. What an opportunity for the DA to be dishonest with the jury! When it suits the State, funded by millions of taxpayers, resources are precious and this is “only a misdemeanor” so they can’t be expected to spend enough to do a good job. But when it comes to the defendant, a single taxpayer, not funded by anyone, he is expected to spare no expense, retest all the evidence and probably go bankrupt in the process. And if he doesn’t? Then the DA will ask every witness about what the defendant didn’t do and argue to the jury that the defendant’s failure to present evidence equals guilt. How unconstitutional and hypocritical.
The DA and the Supreme Court, using the Bennett analysis, sanction the idea that a criminal defendant should be forced to establish innocence. They want the jury to ignore the Presumption of Innocence and focus on what the defense didn’t do. Truly outrageous!