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Date: 05-23-2023

Case Style:

Commonwealth of Virginia v. Jeffrey Lamont Harris, s/k/a Jeffrey Lamonte Harris

Case Number:

Judge: Circuit Court of the City of Chesapeak

Court: John W. Brown

Plaintiff's Attorney: City of Chesapeake Virginia Commonwealth Attorney's Office

Defendant's Attorney:

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Description: Chesapeake, Virginia criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with violating the terms and conditions of suspended sentence.

Jeffery Lamont Harris was accused to violating the terms and conditions of a suspected sentence by engaging in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine; the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute cocaine; and grand larceny. Harris contended that the trial court erroneously admitted testimonial hearsay at the revocation hearing in violation of his due process right to confrontation under the Fourteenth Amendment. Harris also argues that the trial court "failed to give proper weight to mitigation evidence" in imposing his sentence.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment[9] includes a "limited right of confrontation . . . applicable to parole and probation revocation proceedings." Henderson, 285 Va. at 325-26. Because a probation revocation proceeding occurs after a "'criminal prosecution has ended in a conviction,' the defendant 'is not entitled to the "full panoply" of constitutional rights to which he was entitled at trial.'" Jenkins, 71 Va.App. at 343 (quoting Henderson, 285 Va. at 325). Nevertheless, testimonial hearsay is subject to the limited confrontation right, and it is only admissible if the "hearing officer specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation." Henderson, 285 Va. at 326 (quoting Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 489 (1972)).[10]

There are two overlapping tests for "determining whether the denial of the right to confrontation" was supported by "good cause." Id. at 327. The "balancing test" "requires the court to weigh the interests of the defendant in cross-examining his accusers against the interests of the prosecution in denying confrontation." Id. at 327-28. The "reliability test" permits the admission of hearsay "if it possesses substantial guarantees of trustworthiness." Id. at 327. The Virginia Supreme Court has held that such guarantees include:

(1) detailed police reports (as opposed to mere summaries of such reports by probation officers), (2) affidavits or other hearsay given under oath, (3) statements by the probationer that directly or circumstantially corroborate the accusations, (4) corroboration of accusers' hearsay by third parties or physical evidence, (5) statements that fall within a well-established exception to the hearsay rule, (6) evidence of substantial similarities between past offenses and the new accusations that bolsters the accuser's credibility, and (7) a probationer's failure to offer contradictory evidence.

Johnson, 296 Va. at 276 (emphases added) (quoting Henderson, 285 Va. at 327).


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