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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of one count of first degree murder, thirteen counts of robbery, and two counts of attempted robbery and sentencing Defendant to death. The trial court found true the special circumstance allegation that Defendant committed the murder during the commission of a robbery. The conviction and sentence were rendered after bench trials for the guilt phases and penalty phases. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant entered a knowing and intelligent jury waiver; (2) because there was no basis for concluding that Defendant would have chosen a jury trial for the special circumstance allegation had the trial judge avoided an error under People v. Memro 700 P.2d 446 (Cal. 1985), the error was harmless; (3) Defendant’s waiver of a jury trial for the penalty phase was adequate, and no reaffirmation of the waiver before the state of the penalty phase was required; (4) the trial court did not err in considering certain aggravating evidence at the penalty phase; and (5) Defendant’s miscellaneous challenges to the death penalty are rejected. View "People v. Sivongxxay" on Justia Law

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The rule announced in Bond v. United Railroads, 159 Cal. 270 (Cal. 1911), that the statute authorizing appeals of postjudgment orders covers denials of Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 663 motions remains valid. Plaintiff sued Defendant. The trial court eventually dismissed the action on the grounds that Plaintiff had abandoned the case. Two months later, Plaintiff moved to vacate the judgment. The motion cited and quoted from section 663, which allows an aggrieved party in a civil case to move the trial court to vacate its final judgment. The trial court denied the motion. Plaintiff appealed both the order dismissing the case and the order denying his motion to vacate the judgment. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely and ruled that an order denying a section 663 motion is not appealable. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeal’s order and transferred the matter back to that court, holding that a statutory appeal from a ruling denying a section 663 motion “is distinct from an appeal of a trial court judgment and is permissible without regard to whether the issues raised in the appeal from the denial of the second 663 motion overlap with issues that were or could have raised in an appeal of the judgment.” View "Ryan v. Rosenfeld" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Cal. Civ. Code 1009(b), which limits the circumstances in which courts may find implied dedication of private coastal property, applies to property used by the public for nonrecreational vehicle access, as well as property used for recreational purposes. Plaintiffs filed this action seeking a declaration that their neighbors, private owners of noncoastal property, had acquiesced to the dedication of two roadways, which crossed the neighbors’ land, as public roadways. The trial court agreed, concluding that the neighbors or their predecessors had impliedly offered to dedicate the roadways to public use. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that section 1009, subdivision (b) bars all public use, not just recreational use, from developing into an implied public dedication. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 1009, subdivision (b) contains no implicit exception for nonrecreational use of roadways. View "Scher v. Burke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief on the ground of juror misconduct, holding that Petitioner failed to prove his claim of misconduct. Petitioner was sentenced to death for the first degree robbery-murder of Joey Anderson. Petitioner petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that a holdout juror in the penalty deliberations switched her vote to a death sentence after soliciting her husband’s advice regarding how to vote. The Supreme Court issued an order to show cause on this claim of jury misconduct. After an evidentiary hearing, a referee found that the alleged juror misconduct did not occur. The Supreme Court discharged the order to show cause and, by separate order, denied Petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, concluding that the referee’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, and Petitioner failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence his claim that juror misconduct occurred. View "In re Bell" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of seven counts of first degree murder committed in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the special circumstances of multiple murder and murder during the attempted commission or commission of the crimes of rape and burglary. Defendant was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s Batson/Wheeler challenges to the prosecutor’s exercise of peremptory challenges against two African-American prospective jurors; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements he made while in custody because the police did not violate Defendant’s right to remain silent under Miranda; (3) the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of unconsciousness; (4) the admission of victim impact testimony did not violate Defendant’s constitutional rights; and (5) the trial court erred in restricting Defendant’s lack of future dangerousness argument during the penalty phase, but the error was harmless. View "People v. Parker" on Justia Law

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An individual’s standing to sue under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 526a does not require the payment of a property tax, as an allegation that the plaintiff has paid an assessed tax to the defendant locality is sufficient under section 526a. The trial court filed a stipulated order and judgment of dismissal dismissing for lack of standing Plaintiff’s complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the manner in which the City of San Rafael and County of Marin enforced Cal. Veh. Code 14602.6. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that an individual plaintiff must be liable to pay a property tax within the relevant locality, or have paid a property tax during the previous year, to have standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeal erred when it held that payment of a property tax was required under section 526a. View "Weatherford v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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When an assessment on nonexempt property is challenged on the ground that the taxpayer does not own the property involved, the taxpayer must seek an assessment reduction through the assessment appeal process before the county board of equalization or a county assessment appeals board or obtain a stipulation under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5142(b) that such proceedings are unnecessary in order to maintain a postpayment superior court action under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5140 that seeks reduction of the tax. The Supreme Court overruled Parr-Richmond Industrial Corp. v. Boyd 43 Cal.2d 157 (1954) to the extent that the decision provides otherwise. Because this holding operates only prospectively, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this action where Plaintiffs brought timely assessment appeal proceedings under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 1603 (a). The court of appeal held that “where, as here, the taxpayer claims [an] assessment is void because the taxpayer does not own the [assessed] property, the taxpayer is not required to apply for an assessment reduction under section 1603, subdivision (a) to exhaust its administrative remedies.” View "Williams & Fickett v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Defendant’s hand gesture unaccompanied by words or sound qualified as a “statement, made verbally” under Cal. Penal Code 422. Section 422 makes it a crime to threaten infliction of great bodily injury or death on another “with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat….” The trial court dismissed the criminal threat allegations against Defendant, concluding that the hand gestures could not constitute criminal threats as defined by section 422. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a threat made through nonverbal conduct falls outside the scope of section 422; and (2) Defendant’s conduct did not constitute a verbal communication merely because he intended to convey an idea through his conduct. View "People v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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During jury selection proceedings, three defendants joined in a Batson/Wheeler motion, arguing that the prosecutor improperly excluded prospective jurors on account of Hispanic ethnicity. The trial court denied the motion, finding the prosecutor’s reasons for exercising ten of sixteen peremptory challenges to remove Hispanic individuals from the jury panel to be neutral and nonpretextual. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s denial of Defendants’ joint Batson/Wheeler motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court’s finding that Defendants had not met their burden of proving intentional discrimination with respect to at least one excluded panelist was unreasonable in light of the record of voir dire proceedings, and therefore, Defendants were denied their right to a fair trial and their right to a trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under the state Constitution; and (2) the court of appeal erred in refusing to conduct a comparative juror analysis. View "People v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-taxpayers filed a complaint against the City of Los Angeles and the Director of the Los Angeles Zoo (collectively, the City) alleging that the zoo was abusing its elephants. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City, ruling that the complaint raised nonjusticiable issues of public policy. The court of appeals reversed. After a bench trial, the trial court issued injunctions against the City. The court of appeal affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeal’s earlier decision established law of the case, thus barring the City’s new argument that the claim for equitable relief was precluded by Cal. Civ. Code 3369; and (2) the Legislature authorized taxpayer actions aimed at enjoining government expenditures that support criminal conduct. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this case is governed by the general rule that law of the case does not apply to arguments that might have been but were not presented and resolved on an earlier appeal; and (2) the Legislature did not intend to overturn the long-established law governing equitable relief for violations of penal law when it amended Civil Code section 3369, but rather maintained the rule that a taxpayer action will not lie to enforce a Penal Code provision. View "Leider v. Lewis" on Justia Law