Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Under the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 (Realignment Act) incarcerated parolees facing revocation under Cal. Penal Code 1203.2 are entitled to a timely preliminary hearing. At issue in this case was whether the enactment of the Realignment Act, which transferred jurisdiction over most parole revocation hearings from the Board of Parole Hearings to the superior courts, made unnecessary a prompt preliminary hearing after arrest to determine whether there was probable cause to believe a parole violation had occurred. Even though this case was moot, the Supreme Court exercised its discretion to decide what procedure should govern parole revocation proceedings under the Realignment Act. The Supreme Court held that the preliminary hearing requirement set forth in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, (1972) applies to parole revocation proceedings conducted in superior court. View "People v. DeLeon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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To find that an inmate was armed with a firearm during the commission of the inmate’s challenged third strike offense under the Three Strikes law, a court reviewing a Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (the Act) recall petition may rely on facts underlying counts dismissed pursuant to the inmate’s plea agreement, so long as those facts establish that the defendant was armed during his offense of conviction. In this case, Petitioner petitioned to recall his sentence under the Act. The trial court denied the petition, finding that Petitioner was armed with a firearm during the commission of his third offense qualifying as a strike under the Three Strikes law. In making this finding, the trial court reviewed the transcript of the 1996 preliminary hearing held before Petitioner pleaded guilty. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in determining that Petitioner was armed with a firearm during the commission of his grand theft from a person offense. View "People v. Estrada" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of first degree murder and related crimes and Defendant’s sentence of death. The court held (1) any error in the trial court’s restriction of cross-examination was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain testimony during the guilt phase to the effect that Defendant was no longer an active member of the Rolling 20’s Crips at the time of the shootings; (3) the trial court did not err in permitting the prosecution to play for the jury a recorded telephone call between Defendant and his brother that took place shortly before Defendant’s first preliminary hearing; (4) the trial court did not err in excusing a certain juror during the death qualification phase of jury selection; and (5) Defendant’s challenges to California’s capital sentencing scheme and to his death sentence were unavailing. View "People v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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In these two cases, the Supreme Court held that Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of dangerous to public safety” does not apply to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act. In People v. Valencia, the Supreme Court addressed whether Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” applies to resentencing proceedings under Proposition 36. In People v. Chaney, the court addressed whether, if Proposition 47’s definition of unreasonable risk of danger to public safety applies to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act, the definition applies retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that a court has denied but are not yet final on appeal. The Court held (1) Proposition 47 did not amend the Three Strikes Reform Act; and (2) therefore, the court need not address whether Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” applies retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that have already been denied but are not yet final on appeal. View "People v. Valencia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Neither People v. Arbuckle, 587 P.2d 220 (Cal. 1978), nor its progeny support the view that a defendant’s ability to enforce the guarantee that the judge who accepts a plea bargain will impose the sentence (the same-judge guarantee) is dependent on a defendant first making a factual showing that she or he objectively intended the judge taking the plea would also pronounce sentence. K.R., a juvenile, admitted two probation violations. During continued disposition hearings, K.R. filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the same-judge guarantee be enforced. K.R.’s claim was denied under Arbuckle, the judge finding that K.R. did not have a reasonable expectation that the judge who accepted his plea would also impose the disposition. The court of appeal agreed and denied K.R.’s petition for writ of mandate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plain and original understanding of Arbuckle is that in every plea in both adult and juvenile court, an implied term is that the judge who accepts the plea will be the judge who pronounces sentence; and (2) should the People wish to allow a different judge to preside at sentencing, or, in juvenile cases, disposition, they should seek to obtain a waiver from the pleading defendant or juvenile. View "K.R. v. Superior Court of Sacramento County" 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

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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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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