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Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.

Joseph BELLIZZL, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF STANISLAUS COUNTY, Respondent; The PEOPLE of the State of California, Real Party in Interest.

No. 2141.

Decided: January 30, 1974

Robert R. Elledge, Modesto, for petitioner. Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Sacramento, Edward A. Hinz, Jr., Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Doris H. Maier, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Roger E. Venturi, Deputy Atty. Gen., for real party in interest. No appearance for respondent.


On April 18, 1973, the grand jury of Stanislaus County indicted petitioner, charging him with a sale of heroin on January 31, 1973, in violation of Health and Safety Code section 11501 [now 11352]. Petitioner entered a plea of not guilty and a jury trial was scheduled for June 4, 1973.

On May 31, 1973, petitioner moved for discovery of the names and current addresses of all prospective witnesses who would be called to testify by the prosecution at the trial. On June 1, the court ordered the prosecution to furnish the petitioner with ‘the names and current addresses of all persons who will be called to testify at the trial of the within action, particularly including the current address of [David] Morrow.’ The prosecution refused to comply with the order, and on June 4, 1973, prior to the commencement of trial, the action was dismissed.

Thereafter, on June 6, 1973, the People filed a complaint against petitioner containing the same charges as in the indictment.1 On June 29, and July 16, a preliminary hearing was held and at the conclusion thereof, petitioner moved to dismiss the action because he was unable to produce Hal Evans who he contended was a material witness to the charge pending against him. Petitioner asserted that his inability to produce this witness was caused by the delay in prosecution which had resulted from the district attorney's refusal to furnish Morrow's address when petitioner was first charged with the offense. The motion was denied and petitioner was held to answer to the superior court.

On July 20, 1973 an information was filed against petitioner; he again was arraigned, entered a plea of not guilty and the case was set for trial on September 17, 1973.

On August 31, 1973, petitioner moved to dismiss the action upon the grounds that he had been denied due process of law and the right to a speedy trial as a result of the unjustified delay in prosecution which resulted in his being deprived of a material witness.

On September 7, petitioner's motion to dismiss came on for hearing. The district attorney produced Marian Evans, mother of Hal Evans, who testified that her son's current address was 355 Columbia Street, Bend, Oregon. The respondent court issued a certificate to the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for Deschutes County specifying that Evans was a material witness and asking that he be required to attend the proceedings in the instant action.

On September 18, 1973, defense counsel and the district attorney indicated that witness Evans could not be found at the Oregon address and that his whereabouts was unknown. Petitioner's motion to dismiss was denied and the case was continued for trial to October 23, 1973, and thereafter continued again to November 7. On October 24, the instant petition for extraordinary relief was filed with this court, and on November 16 we issued an order to show cause as to why the action should not be dismissed.


At the preliminary hearing, David Morrow testified as follows: On January 31, 1973, about 7 p. m. he made arrangements with officers of the Modesto Police Department to attempt a ‘buy’ from petitioner. Morrow and his car were searched by the police and he was given $50 with which to purchase heroin. Thereafter, he drove to petitioner's residence at 136 James Street in Modesto. The officers followed him in a separate car and waited outside.

Morrow knocked on petitioner's door; petitioner answered the door and invited him in. Morrow stated that petitioner and Hal Evans were having a conversation and ‘after their conversation I asked [petitioner] if he had any spoons for sale and he said that he had.’ Morrow testified that Evans was at the residence for only a short period of time and that after Evans' conversation with the petitioner Evans left. Morrow stated that after Evans left he followed petitioner into the bedroom where he observed an amount of heroin on a nightstand. He stated that petitioner put a portion of the heroin into a balloon and sold it to him for $40. Just before leaving the residence, Evans come back into the front room and made a few remarks about a car that was outside.

After leaving the residence Morrow turned over the heroin and $10 in change to the officers. He also advised the officers that Evans had been at petitioner's residence.

On cross-examination, Morrow acknowledged that Evans had been present at other times when he made buys for the police department and that he had seen Evans make sales to other persons. He also stated, ‘when I was in the Bellizzi residence, that Mr. Bellizzi and Mr. Evans were discussing a sale, but I did not actually see them transact money.’

Petitioner's declaration in support of his motion to dismiss states that he had known Hal Evans personally for approximately 11 years and saw him frequently between December 1, 1972 and June 4, 1973. The last time he saw Evans was on the morning of June 4 at about 11 a. m. at the residence of Joel Zamora, which is one of the places Evans told him that he could be reached whenever petitioner wanted him for the purpose of testifying at his trial. Evans had promised him that he would be available to testify at the trial scheduled for June 4. When petitioner saw Evans on the morning of June 4, he told Evans that the charges had been dismissed.

Petitioner's declaration further states that Evans was present at petitioner's residence at the time of the alleged sale; that he is informed and believes that Evans would testify that no sale of any narcotic substance was made by petitioner at the time to anyone; that Evans was present in petitioner's residence during all of the time the David Morrow was there with the exception of approximately 30 seconds to one minute when he stepped onto the front porch and then returned to the livingroom.

Petitioner states that since he was rearrested on June 12, 1973 because of the refiling of the charges against him, he has made extended efforts to locate Evans and has contacted numerous friends of Evans to see if he could ascertain his hereabouts but to no avail.

The declaration of Joel Zamora states that he has known Evans for approximately 10 years and would usually see him on an average of once a week up until June 4, 1973. He states that he saw Evans around 11 a. m. on the morning of June 4, at his residence, when petitioner came to the house to tell him that the charges against petitioner had just been dismissed. Zamora's declaration states that he last saw Hal Evans on either Wednesday or Thursday of that week, June 6 or June 7, when Evans came to his house but that he has not seen him since that time and has been unable to find out where he is although he has made inquiries to other people as to his whereabouts.


Petitioner contends that to force him to trial without the benefit of Evans' testimony would be a denial of his right to a fair trial. We conclude that petitioner's contention has merit.

Normally, an accused is not entitled to a dismissal simply because he is unable to produce witnesses necessary to his defense. He, of course, is entitled to a reasonable continuance to locate the witness but if he is not successful he nevertheless must stand trial. (People v. Kirkpatrick, 7 Cal.3d 480, 486, 102 Cal.Rptr. 744, 498 P.2d 992.)

However, the rule is otherwise where it is shown that the defendant has been deprived of the testimony of a material witness because of improper conduct on the part of the prosecution. In Harris v. Superior Court, 35 Cal.App.3d 24, 110 Cal.Rptr. 400, the defendant was convicted of possession of heroin. On appeal the judgment was reversed on the ground that the trial court erred in refusing to compel disclosure of the name of an informer who was determined to be a material witness. Thereafter, criminal proceedings were resumed against the defendant and the prosecution disclosed the name of the informant. By this time, however, the informant had disappeared and he could not be located. In ordering the action dismissed, the reviewing court held that the People's improper refusal to disclose the identity of the informant at the first trial, coupled with his later disappearance, would, on retrial, deprive the defendant of a fair trial. The court held that if any party must suffer the consequences of the prosecution's original decision to refuse disclosure of the identity of the informer, it must be the People and not the accused.

In People v. Kiihoa, 53 Cal.2d 748, 3 Cal.Rptr. 1, 349 P.2d 673, the prosecution in a narcotics case chose to release the defendant after arrest rather than disclose the identity of the informant who was a material witness and deferred prosecuting the defendant for some five months until the informant had left the state, thereby rendering himself immune from process. In reversing the conviction, the Supreme Court held that a denial of a fair trial and due process would exist ‘where the prosecution [is] allowed to control the course of the proceedings in a manner which would prevent the accused from presenting material evidence.’ It was noted that it is the duty of the district attorney not to obtain convictions but to fully and fairly present to the court the evidence material to the charge upon which the defendant stands trial, and it is the duty of the trial judge to see that facts material to the charge are fairly presented so that the constitutional guaranties of the defendant are not violated.

By clear analogy the due process standard enunciated in Harris and Kiihoa is applicable to the case at bench. To force petitioner to trial without the testimony of Evans in the face of the prosecution's improper refusal to comply with the discovery order which resulted in a dismissal of the action on June 4 would be to deny petitioner his right to a fair trial.

Viewing the problem from the perspective of petitioner's right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and article I, section 13 of the California Constitution, we observe that petitioner originally was scheduled for trial on June 4 when Evans was available as a witness. However, because the prosecution refused to comply with the discovery order, the trial was delayed until November, almost seven months after the original indictment.2

The test for determining whether a defendant has been denied the right to a speedy trial by reason of prosecutorial delay is to weigh the prejudice to the defendant against the justification shown for the delay. (Jones v. Superior Court, 3 Cal.3d 734, 741, fn. 1, 91 Cal.Rptr. 578, 478 P.2d 10; People v. Archerd, 3 Cal.3d 615, at 639–640, 91 Cal.Rptr. 397, 477 P.2d 421; Penney v. Superior Court, 28 Cal.App.3d 941, 951–952, 105 Cal.Rptr. 162; People v. Vanderburg, 32 Cal.App.3d 526, 531, 108 Cal.Rptr. 104.)

Petitioner has clearly shown prejudice. It is undisputed that Evans is a material witness. He was present in petitioner's house at or about the time the alleged sale took place and according to the allegations of petitioner's affidavit his testimony would have substantial probative value on the question of petitioner's guilt or innocence. Petitioner's showing that Evans was available to testify at the original trial date but, thereafter, became unavailable, also is unchallenged.

Real party in interest is unable to justify the delay other than by arguing that there has been no deliberate suppression of evidence on their part nor has there been any showing that they knew or suspected that Evans would become unavailable as a witness. However, intentional suppression of evidence or bad faith on the part of the prosecution is not an essential element of a defendant's right to a fair or speedy trial. (People v. Kiihoa, supra, 53 Cal.2d at 753, 3 Cal.Rptr. 1, 349 P.2d 673; Penney v. Superior Court, supra, 28 Cal.App.3d at 953, 105 Cal.Rptr. 162.) As stated in Kiihoa:

‘It is next contended that because there was no procurement of or active participation by the law enforcement agency in [the informant's] removal from the jurisdiction there was no state action which deprived the defendant of due process of law. The record does indicate that the police did not arrange for [the informant's] absence. The critical question, however, is not necessarily one of improper conduct in bringing about [the informant's] absence, but rather, whether the defendant's conviction resulted from some form of trial in which his essential rights were disregarded or denied. We are persuaded that the circumstances surrounding this prosecution affected and militated against the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial.’ (53 Cal.2d at 753, 3 Cal.Rptr. at 4, 349 P.2d at 676.)

Similarly, in Penney v. Superior Court, supra, 28 Cal.App.3d 941 at 953, 105 Cal.Rptr. 162 at 171, we said:

‘The requirement of a legitimate reason for the prosecutorial delay cannot be met simply by showing an absence of deliberate, purposeful or oppressive police conduct. A ‘legitimate reason’ logically requires something more than the absence of governmental bad faith.'

Under the circumstances we see no alternative but to grant petitioner the relief prayed for.

Let a peremptory writ of prohibition issue restraining respondent court from further proceeding with this action other than to order a dismissal of the action.


1.  Inasmuch as the order of dismissal was an appealable order (Pen.Code § 1238, subd. (8)) we presume that when the People elected to refile the charges against petitioner rather than seek appellate review of the order of dismissal they recognized the propriety of the order requiring the production of the address of Morrow and intended to furnish the address to avoid another dismissal. The duty to disclose information as to the whereabouts of a material witness is clear. (Smith v. Illinois, 390 U.S. 129, 131–133, 88 S.Ct 748, 750, 19 L.Ed.2d 847, 853, 83 Cal.Rptr. 586, 464 P.2d 42; People v. Mascarenas, 21 Cal.App.3d 660, 666–668, 98 Cal.Rptr. 728; People v. Helmholtz, 10 Cal.App.3d 441, 446, 88 Cal.Rptr. 743; see also Evid.Code §§ 1041, 1042.)

2.  Generally, an order for the dismissal of a felony action made before jeopardy has attached is not a bar to further prosecution (Pen.Code § 1387). Upon refiling, the 60-day time period within which to bring a defendant to trial (Pen.Code § 1382) starts anew (People v. Faulkner, 28 Cal.App.3d 384, 395, 104 Cal.Rptr. 625). However, the prosecution's statutory right to refile cannot overcome the state and federal constitutional guaranties of a speedy trial, and where an accused has shown actual prejudice from the delay, he is entitled to a dismissal. (See People v. Williams, 71 Cal.2d 614, 623, 79 Cal.Rptr. 65, 456 P.2d 633; People v. Wilson, 60 Cal.2d 139, 150–151, 32 Cal.Rptr. 44, 383 P.2d 452; cf. Harris v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.App.3d 24, 27, 110 Cal.Rptr. 400.)

FRANSON, Associate Justice.

GEO. A. BROWN, P. J., and THOMPSON,* J., concur.

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Docket No: No. 2141.

Decided: January 30, 1974

Court: Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.

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