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TPR court properly excluded evidence offered by parent

State v. C.A.P., 2016AP824, District 1, 7/12/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

While § 48.427(1) gives a parent the right to present evidence and be heard at a dispositional hearing, in this case the trial court properly exercised its discretion in excluding two of C.A.P.’s witnesses and denying her request to recall a witness who testified earlier.

Based on C.A.P.’s offer of proof about their proposed testimony, the trial judge concluded that the testimony from the excluded witnesses was irrelevant  or cumulative to other evidence, and so excludable under § 904.02 and § 904.03, respectively. The court of appeals agrees, and also holds the trial court properly exercised its power to control the mode and order of presenting evidence under § 906.11(1). (¶¶18-19, 22-25).

Further, C.A.P. wasn’t denied her rights under § 48.427(1) because was heard at the dispositional phase as she presented “voluminous evidence—eleven witnesses over five days of trial.” (¶20). The statute doesn’t mandate that a parent gets to call every witness she wants because it doesn’t eliminate the trial judge’s role as evidentiary gate-keeper. (¶¶20-21).

Finally, in light of the proper exclusion of those witnesses and all the other evidence presented, the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in deciding that termination was in the best interest of C.A.P.’s child. (¶¶26-31).

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