Fenenbock v. Director of Corrections

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 05-24-2012
  • Case #: 11-15880
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and O'Scannlain
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant is not denied sufficient pretrial access to the prosecution’s primary witness where the witness is a minor, and an agency unrelated to the prosecution acts in the minor’s best interest and restricts the defendant’s access to the minor.

Robert Fenenbock was sentenced to twenty-five years to life following his conviction for the murder of Gary Summar. Fenenbock filed multiple appeals followed by habeas petitions in federal and state courts. Fenenbock appealed the district court’s denial of his federal habeas petition. On appeal, Fenenbock claimed he was denied sufficient pretrial access to the prosecution’s primary witness, an issue not raised in state court. The Court rejected Fenenbock’s denial-of-access claim, citing a witness’s right to refuse to meet with a defendant. Further, the witness, R.H., was a minor in custody of Child Protective Services (“CPS”), a government agency separate from the prosecution. CPS, as R.H.’s guardian, found it to be in R.H.’s best interest to restrict Fenenbock’s access to R.H. Thus, Fenenbock failed to prove prosecutorial interference with access to R.H. Fenenbock also argued that the trial court unduly limited his cross-examination of R.H. by imposing a time limit, in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. The Court disagreed, concluding that “[a] court violates the Confrontation Clause only when it prevents a defendant from examining a particular and relevant topic.” AFFIRMED.

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