Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of death imposed by the trial court in connection with Defendant’s conviction of first degree murder, holding that Defendant’s waiver of his right to a jury trial on penalty was invalid. The court also vacated as unauthorized Defendant’s sentence of death in connection with the conviction of second degree murder and directed the superior court to issue an amended judgment reflecting the appropriate sentence of fifteen years to life. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in all other respects and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "People v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner’s constitutional challenges to Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016, did not warrant relief. Proposition 66, which was approved by California voters in the November 2016 election, is intended to facilitate the enforcement of judgments and achieve cost savings in capital cases. Petitioner sought writ relief from the Supreme Court, arguing that Proposition 66 embraces more than one subject in violation of the California Constitution, interferes with the jurisdiction of courts to hear original petitions for habeas corpus relief, violates inmates’ equal protection rights by treating capital prisoners differently from other prisoners with respect to successive habeas corpus petitions, and violates the separation of powers doctrine by materially impairing courts’ ability to resolve capital appeals and habeas corpus petitions. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) Proposition 66 is not unconstitutional; but (2) in order to avoid separation of powers problems, provisions of Proposition 66 that appear to impose strict deadlines on the resolution of judicial proceedings must be deemed directive rather than mandatory. View "Briggs v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of misdemeanor battery of a peace officer, holding that the People failed to prove that the victim, a member of the City of Santa Barbara harbor patrol, was a “peace officer” within the meaning of Cal. Pen. Code 243(b). The Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction, concluding that a harbor patrol officer need not have the primary duty of law enforcement to be a peace officer. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal to the extent it affirmed Defendant’s conviction for battery under section 243(b), holding (1) this court agrees with People v. Miller, 164 Cal. App. 4th 653, 665-668 (2008), and concludes that a harbor patrol officer must have the primary duty of law enforcement to be a peace officer; and (2) the People in this case did not prove that the primary duty of the harbor patrol officer battered by Defendant was law enforcement. View "People v. Pennington" on Justia Law

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