Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The collection requirement of Proposition 69, known as the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (DNA Act), is constitutional as applied to an individual who, like Defendant, was validly arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense” and who was required to swab his cheek as part of a “routine booking procedure” at county jail. Defendant was arrested for arson and related felonies and transported to jail. At booking, Defendant was informed that he was required to provide a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. Defendant refused and was later convicted of both the arson-related felonies and the misdemeanor offense of refusing to provide a specimen required by the DNA Act. After the case was remanded, the Court of Appeal reversed Defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction on the ground that the DNA Act violates the state Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) it was reasonable under both the Fourth Amendment and Cal. Const. art. I, 13 to require Defendant to swab his cheek as part of a routine jail booking procedure following a valid arrest for felony arson; and (2) therefore, Defendant was subject to the statutory penalties prescribed in Cal. Penal Code 298.1. View "People v. Buza" on Justia Law

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The collection requirement of Proposition 69, known as the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (DNA Act), is constitutional as applied to an individual who, like Defendant, was validly arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense” and who was required to swab his cheek as part of a “routine booking procedure” at county jail. Defendant was arrested for arson and related felonies and transported to jail. At booking, Defendant was informed that he was required to provide a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. Defendant refused and was later convicted of both the arson-related felonies and the misdemeanor offense of refusing to provide a specimen required by the DNA Act. After the case was remanded, the Court of Appeal reversed Defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction on the ground that the DNA Act violates the state Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) it was reasonable under both the Fourth Amendment and Cal. Const. art. I, 13 to require Defendant to swab his cheek as part of a routine jail booking procedure following a valid arrest for felony arson; and (2) therefore, Defendant was subject to the statutory penalties prescribed in Cal. Penal Code 298.1. View "People v. Buza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to murder Dean Noyes for lack of territorial jurisdiction and affirmed in all other respects the judgment convicting Defendant of first degree murder and conspiracy to murder his wife, Carole Garton, and her fetus. The Supreme Court held (1) any error in the trial court’s ruling prohibiting Defendant from wearing his wedding ring during trial was harmless; (2) the trial court did not err by allowing the prosecution’s investigating officers to bypass metal detectors while entering the courthouse; (3) Defendant was not prejudiced by the introduction of hearsay statements by the county coroner concerning the state of Carole’s body and her cause of death; (4) the trial court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction over the charge that Defendant conspired to murder Dean in Oregon; (5) any error in the trial court’s instructions to the jury was harmless; (6) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for entry of judgment of acquittal; and (7) there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of Defendant’s convictions. View "People v. Garton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder, residential robbery, residential burglary, and vehicle theft and Defendant’s sentence of death for the murder, holding that any potential error was harmless and that none of the potential errors were cumulatively prejudicial. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant failed to establish that any conflict of interest adversely affected his counsel’s performance; (2) any error resulting from Defendant’s absence from two discussions about counsel’s supposed conflict of interest was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) any challenged comments made by the judge did not disqualify the judge from presiding over the trial; (4) the trial judge’s choice to limit counsel’s time to question jurors during voir dire was not an abuse of discretion; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in choosing to remove a seated juror during the guilt phase proceedings; (6) the prosecutor did not engage in impermissible misconduct; (7) any error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (8) any error in the trial court’s instructions to the jury was harmless; and (8) Defendant’s sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s requirement of proportionate sentencing. View "People v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The sentences imposed on Defendants, two juvenile nohomicide offenders, violated the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in People v. Caballero, 55 Cal.4th 262, 268 (2012) and Graham v. Florida, 460 U.S. 48 (2010). Defendants, Leonel Contreras and William Rodriguez, were convicted in a joint trial of kidnapping and sexual offenses that they committed when they were sixteen years old. Contreras was sentenced to a term of fifty-eight years to life, and Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of fifty years to life. The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendants’ convictions but reversed their sentences and remanded for resentencing, holding that Defendants’ sentences fell short of giving them a realistic chance for release, as contemplated by Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants’ sentences violated the Eighth Amendment under the standards articulated in Graham. The court directed the sentencing court, upon resentencing, any mitigating circumstances of Defendants’ lives and crimes and the impact of any new legislation and regulations on appropriate sentencing. View "People v. Contreras" on Justia Law

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The sentences imposed on Defendants, two juvenile nohomicide offenders, violated the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in People v. Caballero, 55 Cal.4th 262, 268 (2012) and Graham v. Florida, 460 U.S. 48 (2010). Defendants, Leonel Contreras and William Rodriguez, were convicted in a joint trial of kidnapping and sexual offenses that they committed when they were sixteen years old. Contreras was sentenced to a term of fifty-eight years to life, and Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of fifty years to life. The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendants’ convictions but reversed their sentences and remanded for resentencing, holding that Defendants’ sentences fell short of giving them a realistic chance for release, as contemplated by Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants’ sentences violated the Eighth Amendment under the standards articulated in Graham. The court directed the sentencing court, upon resentencing, any mitigating circumstances of Defendants’ lives and crimes and the impact of any new legislation and regulations on appropriate sentencing. View "People v. Contreras" on Justia Law

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The trial court violated Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial when it found a disputed fact about the conduct underlying Defendant’s assault conviction that had not been established by virtue of the conviction itself. Defendant was convicted of second degree robbery and transportation of a controlled substances, among other offenses. The prosecution sought an increased sentence from the maximum term of imprisonment on the ground that Defendant had previously been convicted of a “serious felony” under Cal. Penal Code 667(a) that was also a strike for purposes of the Three Strikes law. That conviction was for assault with a deadly weapon or with force likely to produce great bodily injury. The trial court determined that Defendant did commit the assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced her to a term of eleven years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that her increased sentence rested upon an exercise in judicial fact-finding that violated her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Supreme Court disapproved of People v. McGee, 38 Cal.4th 682 (Cal. 2006) insofar as it suggested that the trial court’s factfinding was constitutionally permissible and held that Defendant’s increased sentence rested on an exercise in judicial fact-finding that violated her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. View "People v. Gallardo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s automatic motion to modify the jury’s verdict of death and imposing a judgment of death in this case in which Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder under the special circumstances of multiple murder and murder in the course of a robbery. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant’s counsel provided constitutionally effective assistance; (2) the trial court did not prejudicially err in denying Defendant’s motion to change venue; (3) no prejudicial error occurred during jury selection; (4) Defendant’s challenges to the admission of certain testimony were unavailing; (5) reliance on evidence in aggravation of two crimes of violence Defendant committed when he was seventeen years old and of his conviction for one of those crimes did not violate Defendant’s rights under the Eighth Amendment; (6) there was no error in excluding evidence of the impact of Defendant’s execution on his family; and (7) none of Defendant’s remaining arguments warranted relief from the judgment. View "People v. Rices" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder and sentencing him to death. The court held (1) Defendant was not deprived of the right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community; (2) the trial court did not err in ruling that evidence of an uncharged murder would be admissible to impeach Defendant’s witness under certain circumstances; (3) the trial court did not err in ruling that the prosecution could admit evidence that Defendant had attempted to escape from jail; (4) the trial court did not err in admitting the victim’s statement that Defendant was into “heavy stuff” or in admitting victim impact evidence; (4) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instruction; (5) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s requests for a separate penalty phase jury and sequestered voir dire; (6) Defendant was not prejudiced by any improper argument by the prosecutor; (7) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting photographs of the victims or evidence that Defendant will kill a guard to escape; and (8) Defendant’s sentence was constitutional. View "People v. Henriquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree murder and other crimes and sentencing him to death but remanded the case to the trial court for reconsideration of Defendant’s restitution fine. The court held (1) although Defendant’s absent from portions of the proceedings violated his statutory right to be present, the error was harmless; (2) the trial court did not violate Defendant’s right to an impartial jury by excusing a prospective juror for cause because of her views on the death penalty; (3) the trial court did not err in admitting Defendant’s confession; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence of a conditional plea offer as mitigation during the penalty phase; (5) Defendant’s challenges to California’s death penalty scheme were unavailing; and (6) the trial court applied the wrong statute in imposing Defendant’s restitution fine. View "People v. Wall" on Justia Law