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At issue was whether the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury on murder with malice aforethought or lesser included offenses of murder with malice aforethought, or defenses applicable to murder with malice aforethought, was harmless due to the jury’s finding true a robbery-murder special circumstance allegation. Defendants were convicted of first degree felony murder. The jury found true a special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery. The amended information had accused Defendants of murder with malice aforethought, a term encompassing two kinds of offenses. This accusation triggered the trial court’s duty to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses of murder with malice aforethought if substantial evidence had been presented to support a jury finding of the lesser included offense rather than first degree murder. The trial court instructed the jury only on first degree felony murder and failed to instruct the jury on murder with malice aforethought, lesser included offenses of murder with malice aforethought, or on defenses applicable to murder with malice aforethought, as requested by Defendants. The Supreme Court held that the jury’s finding on the robbery-murder special circumstance rendered harmless the trial court’s instructional errors. View "People v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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When a third party sues an employer for the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of an employee who intentionally injured that third party, the suit alleges an “occurrence” under the employer’s commercial general liability policy so long as the injury can be considered “accidental.” Jane Doe alleged that Construction Company negligently hired, retained, and supervised an employee, who allegedly sexually abused Doe. Construction Company tendered the defense to Insurer. Insurer sought declaratory relief in federal court contending that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify Construction Company. The commercial general liability policy at issue provided coverage for “bodily injury caused by an “occurrence.” “Occurrence” was defined as an “accident.” The district court granted summary judgment to Insurer, reasoning that Doe’s injury was not caused by an “occurrence” because the alleged negligent hiring, retention, and supervision were acts too attenuated from the injury-causing conduct committed by the employee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the causal connection between Construction Company’s alleged negligence and the injury inflicted by its employee was close enough to justify the imposition of liability on Construction Company. View "Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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As modified in this opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murdering two people during the commission of a robbery and his sentence of death. On appeal, the Supreme Court found only one error during the guilt and penalty phases of Defendant’s trial - the admission of Defendant’s pretrial statement in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436. Specifically, the Court held that detectives violated Miranda by continuing to question Defendant after he invoked his right to remain silent, but the statements were not coerced. The Court then determined that this sole error was harmless. The Court modified the judgment of the trial court by reducing the $10,000 restitution fine to $6,000 and, as modified, affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "People v. Case" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first degree murder, rape, and other crimes and sentencing Defendant to death. On appeal, the Court held (1) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error during jury selection; (2) no prejudicial error occurred during the guilt phase of trial; (3) none of the errors identified by the Court during the penalty phase of trial was prejudicial individually, and they did not have any cumulative effect; and (4) Defendant’s challenges to California’s death penalty law were unavailing. View "People v. Hardy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in its entirety the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of three counts of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, second degree robbery, and assault with a firearm and sentencing Defendant to death for the three murders. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) no prejudicial error occurred during jury selection; (2) during the guilt phase, the Confrontation Clause was violated through the admission of certain out-of-court statements, but the errors were not prejudicial; and (3) several errors were committed during the penalty phase, including the erroneous admission of certain statements and the erroneous admission of testimony by victim family members about the appropriate penalty, but the errors did not affect the penalty phase verdict. View "People v. Penunuri" on Justia Law

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The California Table Grape Commission’s advertisements and related messaging represent government speech, as opposed to private speech, and the Ketchum Act’s (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 65500) scheme providing that the Commission’s activities are funded by assessments on shipments of California table grapes does not violate Plaintiffs’ rights under Cal. Const. art. I, 2. Plaintiffs, five growers and shippers of California table grapes, brought suit arguing that the collection of assessments under the Act to subsidize promotional speech on behalf of California table grapes as a generic category violates their right to free speech under Cal. Const. art. I, 2(a). Plaintiffs claimed specifically that the table grapes they grow and ship are exceptional and that the assessment scheme requires them to sponsor a viewpoint that they disagree with. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs failed to advance a viable claim under article I, section 2. Specifically, the Court held that there was sufficient government responsibility for and control over the messaging at issue for the communications to represent government speech that Plaintiffs can be required to subsidize without implicating their article I, section 2 rights. View "Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission" on Justia Law

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Communications configured by the social media user to be public fall within the lawful consent exception to the federal Stored Communications Act’s prohibition on disclosure by social media providers of any communication. See 18 U.S.C. 2701 et seq. The district court denied motions to quash filed by Petitioners - Facebook, Inc., Instagram, LLC, and Twitter, Inc. Petitioners sought to quash subpoenas served on them by two criminal defendants seeking public and private communications from the social media accounts of a homicide victim and a prosecution witness. The appellate court directed the trial court to quash the subpoenas. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeal’s decision and remanded the matter, holding (1) the court of appeal correctly found the subpoenas unenforceable under the Act with respect to communications addressed to specific persons and communications that were and have remained configured by the registered user to be restricted; but (2) the court of appeal erred in holding that section 2702 of the Act does not bar disclosure by providers of communications that were configured by the registered user to be public and that remained so configured at the time the subpoenas were issued. Rather, under section 2702(b)(3)’s lawful consent exception, a provider must disclose any such communication pursuant to a subpoena that is authorized under state law. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus insofar as one of Petitioner’s claims alleged that he was ineligible for execution because he was intellectually disabled. The Court further vacated the judgment of the superior court in Petitioner’s criminal case to the extent it imposed a sentence of death. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and robbery. The jury returned a death verdict, which the court imposed. On remand from the Supreme Court, the trial court reinstated the judgment of death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Petitioner then filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that he was ineligible for execution because he was intellectually disabled. The Supreme Court issued an order to show cause and ordered a reference hearing in the superior court. A referee found that Petitioner was intellectually disabled. The Supreme Court adopted the referee’s findings regarding intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, holding that the findings were were substantially supported. Because Petitioner was intellectually disabled, he was entitled to relief from the death judgment under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321 (2002), and In re Hawthorne, 35 Cal. 4th 40 (2005). View "In re Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of one count of first degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and other offenses and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that no prejudicial error occurred during the proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error in the selection of the jury; (2) the trial court properly instructed the jury; (3) the trial court did not err in its evidentiary rulings; (4) the arguments raised by Defendant regarding special circumstances issues were unavailing; and (5) no prejudicial occurred during the penalty phase proceedings. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the convictions of Defendants Edgar Octavio Barajas and Jesus Manuel Rodriguez for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and participation in a criminal street gang, rendered by a jury after a joint trial. Each defendant was sentenced to mandatory terms amounting to fifty years to life. As to Barajas, the Supreme Court remanded with an order to enter a judgment of acquittal, holding that accomplice testimony was not sufficiently corroborated in light of People v. Romero and Self, 62 Cal.4th 1, 36 (2015). As to Rodriguez, the Court held that Rodriguez was not provided an adequate opportunity to make a record of information relevant to a future youth offender parole hearing and that he was entitled to a remand under People v. Franklin, 63 Cal.4th 261, 283-284, 286 (2016). The Court’s directive that Rodriguez receive a remand in this proceeding made it unnecessary to address his constitutional challenge to his sentence. View "People v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law