Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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

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The Supreme Court of California held that, in light of the text and other indicia of the purpose associated with the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions, Cal. Const., art. XIII C, section 2 does not limit voters' power to raise taxes by statutory initiative. The court explained that a contrary conclusion would require an unreasonably broad construction of the term "local government" at the expense of the people’s constitutional right to direct democracy, undermining the longstanding and consistent view that courts should protect and liberally construe it. In this case, the California Cannabis Coalition drafted a medical marijuana initiative proposing to repeal an existing City ordinance. The Coalition subsequently petitioned for a writ of mandate when the City failed to submit the initiative to the voters at a special election. The supreme court affirmed the court of appeal's holding that article XIII C, section 2 only governs levies that are imposed by local government, and thus directed the superior court to issue a writ of mandate compelling the City to place the initiative on a special ballot in accordance with Elections Code section 9214. View "California Cannabis Coalition v. Upland" on Justia Law

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In 2012, plaintiff filed suit against Doe No. 1, a public entity, alleging that she was molested by defendant's employee when she was a high school student from 1993-1994. After the claim was denied, she filed this instant action against Doe No. 1 and Doe Nos. 2-20, alleging that latent memories of the sexual abuse resurfaced in early 2012, when she was about 34 years old. The Supreme Court of California held that the 2012 claim was not timely in light of Shirk v. Vista Unified School Dist. (2007) 42 Cal.4th 201. The court explained that when the Legislature amended Code Civ. Proc., 340.1 without modifying the claims requirement, and later overruled Shirk, but only prospectively, it took measured actions that protected public entities from potential liability for stale claims regarding conduct allegedly occurring before January 1, 2009, in which the public entity had no ability to do any fiscal planning, or opportunity to investigate the matter and take remedial action. View "Rubenstein v. Doe No. 1" on Justia Law

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The Medical Board of California did not violate patients’ right to privacy under Cal. Const. art. I, 1 when it obtained data from the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), California’s prescription drug monitoring program, without a warrant or subpoena supported by good cause during the course of investigating the patients’ physician, Dr. Alwin Carl Lewis. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal, which determined that the Board’s actions did not involve a significant intrusion on a privacy interest protected by the state Constitution’s privacy provision and, even if there was an invasion of privacy, it was justified. The Supreme Court held that even assuming the Board’s actions constituted a serious intrusion on a legally protected privacy interest, its review of Lewis’s patients’ CURES records was justified by the state’s dual interest in protecting the public from the unlawful use and diversion of a particularly dangerous class of prescription drugs and protecting patients from negligent or incompetent physicians. View "Lewis v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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The Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, issued a protocol addressing the process by which minors are found incompetent and later found to have attained competency. The Supreme Court of California held that although trial courts are not barred from adopting such protocols as guidance or as local rules, the Court of Appeal was correct that the protocol does not presumptively or otherwise define due process. The court declined to decide whether the length of detention in this case violated due process and instead held that any violation was not prejudicial in light of the juvenile court's finding of malingering. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re Albert C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder, holding that the trial court's admission of the confession of Defendant’s accomplice violated Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront her accusers because the jury was, in fact, asked to consider the accomplice’s confession for its truth. Defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that the admission of her accomplice’s confession violated her constitutional right to confront her accomplice. The prosecution introduced the confession in rebuttal to Defendant’s trial testimony in which Defendant blamed the events on her accomplice, who had since died. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the accomplice’s confession was presented not to establish the truth of his account, in which he pinned much of the blame on Defendant, but instead to undermine Defendant’s competing account of their joint crime. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the prosecution did not use the accomplice’s un-cross-examined confession for the limited nonhearsay purpose of impeaching the statements Defendant had attributed to her accomplice in her testimony. Rather, the prosecution used the accomplice’s confession as evidence establishing a different account of the crime, which the prosecution repeatedly invited the jury to consider for its truth. View "People v. Hopson" on Justia Law

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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