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Cross-examination – in camera inspection of mental health records.

State v. Peter Ballos, 230 Wis.2d 495, 602 N.W.2d 117 (Ct. App. 1999).

For Ballos: Robert N. Myeroff.

Issue: Whether the trial court should have ordered production of the state’s witness’s mental health records, for in camera inspection, upon showing that the witness had been hospitalized for depression and was obsessed with bomb-building, and where the theory of defense was that the witness rather than defendant committed the crime.

Holding: The defense satisfied the preliminary showing necessary for mental health record production, but the trial court’s erroneous refusal to order production was harmless.

Analysis: To obtain in camera inspection of records, the defense must show their materiality. Ballos satisfied that test, given the witness’s hospitalization less than three months before the charged arson, and his obsession with bombs. The error, though, was harmless in light of overwhelming evidence of guilt.

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