Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, the special circumstance of multiple murder, and various enhancements. The Court held (1) the prosecutor did not violate Defendant’s constitutional rights to equal protection and a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community by peremptorily excusing five black prospective jurors at the guilt phase; (2) the trial court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment and his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying his motion for a continuance; (3) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions; (4) any error in the jury instructions related to eyewitness identification was harmless; (5) the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the penalty phase retrial jury on lingering doubt; (6) the trial court did not err in not offering supplemental instructions when it was clear that the jury’s verdict was not unanimous; (7) Defendant’s challenges to the penalty phase jury instructions were unavailing; and (8) Defendant’s remaining allegations of error were without merit. View "People v. Reed" 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 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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Subject to the trial court’s discretion to permit late filing, a defendant must move to strike a cause of action under Cal. Code Civ. P. 425.16 - California’s anti-SLAPP statute - within sixty days of service of the earliest complaint that contains that cause of action. Within sixty days of the filing of a third amended complaint but not within sixty days of any earlier complaint, Defendants moved to strike that complaint under section 425.16. Specifically, Defendants sought to strike Plaintiffs’ claim alleged in the first and subsequent complaints that Defendants fraudulently settled an unlawful detainer action. The trial court denied the motion as untimely. The court of appeal affirmed, ruling that a defendant must file an anti-SLAPP motion within sixty days of service of the first complaint that pleads a cause of action coming within section 425.16(b)(1) unless the trial court in its discretion permits the motion to be filed at a later time. The court also concluded that Defendants’ motion was timely as to the new causes of action pleaded for the first time in the third amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeal property interpreted section 425.16(f). View "Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism" 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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Chatman, convicted of robbery in 2001, was sentenced to five years of felony probation plus 180 days in jail. Two years later, Chatman was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving with alcohol. In 2006-2007 both convictions were dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4. In 2008, Chatman was convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence and was sentenced to three years of probation plus 10 days of imprisonment. In 2014, Chatman was offered a job that required a community care license from the Department of Social Services. Although Chatman’s robbery conviction bars him from obtaining that license, the Department may grant an exemption if a prospective employee has a Section 4852.01 certificate of rehabilitation (Health & Saf. Code 1522(g)(1)(A)(ii)). Once former probationers have their convictions dismissed under section 1203.4, section 4852.01 renders them ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if they are subsequently incarcerated. Former prisoners –– whether subsequently incarcerated or not –– face no such restriction. Chatman claimed that the unequal treatment was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of California rejected that argument. Section 4852.01’s eligibility criteria survive rational basis review. Former probationers, as opposed to former prisoners, can seek some relief from the effects of their convictions through section 1203.4, and so have less relative need for certificate of rehabilitation relief. Instead of choosing an arbitrary means of limiting access to certificates, legislators used subsequent incarceration as a means of determining which former probationers show the most promise for rehabilitation. View "People v. Chatman" 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