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Self-Defense – “McMorris” Acts of Prior Violence by Victim – Procedure on Determining Admisssibility

State v. Juan M. Navarro, 2001 WI App 225
For Navarro: Joseph M. Moore, SPD Trial, Juneau

Issue: Whether the trial court is required to conduct an in camera inspection of confidential records of the complaining witness, a correctional officer, relating to his possible abusive treatment of inmates, in a battery-by-prisoner trial where the defendant alleges self-defense.

Holding: The trial court’s denial of in camera inspection without first conducting an evidentiary hearing on materiality was erroneous: Access may not be denied simply because the records aren’t within the state’s possession; disclosure isn’t limited to mental health records; and, § 971.23(1)(h) exculpatory evidence analysis isn’t relevant to the materiality inquiry. ¶¶9-10. Materiality in this case relates to supporting self-defense, in particular proof of the victim’s prior acts of violence within the defendant’s knowledge. ¶13. Navarro’s assertions, though general, sufficed to require an evidentiary hearing on materiality, as prelude to in camera inspection (though greater specificity will be required at the hearing). ¶¶13-17.

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