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Cross-examination — Bias — Pending Charges

State v. Jon P. Barreau, 2002 WI App 198, PFR filed 8/12/02
For Barreau: Glenn C. Reynolds
Issue/Holding A witness’s pending criminal charges are relevant to bias, even absent promises of leniency. ¶55. In this instance, the trial court prohibited cross-examination about whether the witness was receiving benefits from the state for his testimony, but only after the witness testified outside the jury’s presence that there were none. Any error on the inhibition of confrontation was therefore harmless. Additionally, there was no prohibition on asking the witness whether he had any pending charges; though counsel didn’t pursue that inquiry, there was no error, because confrontation requires only the opportunity for effective cross-examination, not its actualization.
(See also US v. Chandler, 3rd Cir. No. 01-2572, 4/14/03, to effect that cross-examination as to witness’s expectation of sentencing benefit re: pending charge may not be unduly restricted; court notes split of authority as to whether defendant categorically entitled to delve into precise, “concrete details” of witness-agreement with government, but court doesn’t reach that issue.)

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