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Judge grants defendant’s request for ‘tangible materials’

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SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has granted the request of the Public Defender’s Office for “tangible materials” at a preliminary hearing.

In his order, the judge found that PDO’s client, Vicente Sablan Basa, has the right to cross-examine an adverse witness at a preliminary examination hearing to weed out groundless claims.

“The defendant is entitled to the tangible materials, if any, used by law enforcement to establish probable cause so that defendant can fully and properly cross-examine the government’s witness,” the judge said.

Basa, 68, is accused of trying to run over a man with a car, and repeatedly ramming a parked vehicle in Kagman 3.

He was arrested for disturbing the peace, assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, and criminal mischief.

Basa, represented by Assistant Public Defender Vina Seelam, requested the court to order the  Attorney General’s Office to produce all notes, police reports, and videos taken by the government in the case.

The AG’s office, through Assistant AG Steve Kessell,  opposed continuing the preliminary hearing in Basa’s case, and asked the court to deny the defendant’s request for tangible materials.

In his ruling, Judge Camacho stated that the government decided to add charges against Basa prior to the preliminary examination hearing. 

The judge said the information filed on Aug. 11, 2020 charged Basa with assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault, two counts of vandalism, disturbing the peace, driving without license, reckless driving, and theft of vehicle.

The judge added that  “the right to receive the tangible materials used by law enforcement officers to determine probable cause allows for effective cross-examination and the ability of the trial court at a preliminary examination hearing to make a proper determination of probable cause.”

He said “cross-examination gives the court the opportunity to place the testimony of the witness in its proper context and weigh the strength and ‘credibility of the witness’ testimony. Without a full and proper cross-examination, the court would be unable to accurately evaluate and weigh the witness’ testimony.”

He said for a “defendant’s cross-examination at a preliminary examination hearing to be effective, it is necessary for the defendant to be privy to the tangible materials such as documents, photographs, video, etc. that formed the basis of the opposing party’s testimony.”

The judge said preliminary examination hearings are not the same as criminal trials.

He said the role of the trial court at a preliminary examination hearing “is not simply to rubber stamp the prosecution's complaint, but rather to weed out groundless claims and thereby avoid…the imposition and expense of an unnecessary criminal trial.”

The judge rescheduled the preliminary hearing for Sept. 30 at 10 a.m.

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