CALIFORNIA CASE LAW UPDATE – Selected California Cases
California Supreme Court (April 1-30, 2012)
Death Penalty. People v. Weaver (4/16/2012, S033149) 53 CA4th 1056: Judgment affirmed. All claims rejected, including: 1) the defendant’s jury waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; 2) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument; 3) the trial court did not erroneously admit and consider victim-impact evidence; 4) testimony that the defendant displayed hatred not improper opinion evidence; 5) the trial court did not erroneously consider mitigating evidence as aggravating; 6) the defendant received a proper hearing on his automatic application to modify the death verdict; and 7) there were no constitutional or international law infirmities in the death penalty law.
Restriction Of Attorney-Client Communication Is Not Reversible Per Se. People v. Hernandez (4/19/2012, S178823) 53 CA4th 1095: Where a trial court order prevents counsel from consulting with his client regarding a specific piece of evidence, the error is reversible only upon a showing of prejudice.
Prosecution Pretrial Discovery Of Defendant’s Mental Exams. Maldonado v. Superior Court (People) (4/23/2012, S183961) 53 CA4th 1112: Under PC 1054.3, a reciprocal discovery statute, the prosecution is not prohibited from pretrial access to mental examinations of the defendant to rebut a mental-state defense.
Death Penalty. People v. Livingston (4/26/2012, S090499) 53 CA4th 1145: Judgment affirmed. Rejected claims included: 1) evidentiary error: 2) error in jury instructions; 3) insufficient evidence to support the true findings that the crimes were committed on behalf of a criminal street gang, and that the murders were committed under the special circumstance of lying in wait; 4) invalidity of the lying-in-wait special circumstance; 5) improper admission of evidence of unadjudicated criminal activity; 6) cumulative prejudice from errors; and 7) unconstitutionality of the death penalty and its violation of international law.
Death Penalty. People v. Myles (4/26/2012, S097189) 53 CA4th 1181: Judgment affirmed. Rejected claims included: 1) the denial of a motion to sever two murder counts; 2) denial of a defense motion for a “ski mask” lineup; 3) denial of a third request for substitution of counsel; 4) a sealed transcript of in camera hearings was not adequate for purposes of conducting a meaningful appellate review; 5) the defendant was prejudiced by admission of evidence of witness dissuasion; 6) courtroom presence of a murder victim’s wife; 7) circumstantial evidence instructions deprived the defendant of due process; 8) failure to instruct on voluntary intoxication; and 9) various sentencing challenges.
PC 288.7 Applies To Children Under Age 11. People v. Cornett (4/30/2012, S189733) 53 CA4th 1261: The phrase “10 years of age or younger” in PC 288.7 includes children who have not yet reached their 11th birthday.
California Supreme Court (April 1-30, 2012)
Grants of Review
People v. Clancey GTD (4/11/2012, S200158) 202 CA4th 790: Did the trial court’s actions in this matter constitute an unlawful judicial plea bargain rather than a lawful indicated sentence?
People v. Alger REV GTD (4/11/2012, S200663) 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 793: Briefing deferred pending decision in People v. Dungo REV GTD (12/2/2009, S176886) 176 CA4th 1388, People v. Gutierrez REV GTD (12/2/2009, S176620) 177 CA4th 654, People v. Lopez REV GTD (12/2/2009, S177046) 177 CA4th 202, and People v. Rutterschmidt REV GTD (12/2/2009, S176213) 176 CA4th 1047, which present issues concerning the right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment when the results of forensic tests performed by a criminalist who does not testify at trial are admitted into evidence and how the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (2009) 557 US 305, and Bullcoming v. New Mexico (6/23/2011, No. 09-10876) 564 US ___ [180 LEd2d 610; 131 SCt 2705] affect this court’s decision in People v. Geier (2007) 41 CA4th 555.
People v. Nuckles REV GTD (4/18/2012, S200612) 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 830: Was defendant properly convicted of being an accessory to a felony for assisting another person to abscond from his parole term after serving his sentence for that felony?
California Courts of Appeal (April 1-30, 2012)
PC 269 Prosecution Not Barred By Statute Of Limitations. People v. Hale (3/28/2012, A127337) 204 CA4th 961: A prosecution for PC 269 (aggravated sexual assault of a child) is not subject to a statute of limitations but can be commenced at any time.
“Strike” Priors: Two Assaults Against Same Victim Within 30 Minutes. People v. Finney (4/3/2012, B230471) 204 CA4th 1034: For purposes of the “strike” law, an assault against a victim that is followed by a second assault against the same victim thirty minutes later constitutes two strikes.
DUI: Foreign Jurisdiction Prior Not Including All Elements Of VC 23152. People v. Self (4/4/2012, D058656) 204 CA4th 1054: When the statutory definition of a crime in a foreign jurisdiction does not contain all of the necessary elements of VC 23152, handwritten notations on the foreign judgment regarding a defendant’s BAC that are not relevant to a determination of the crime committed do not establish that the BAC was either admitted or adjudicated and cannot be used to enhance a sentence.
No Sua Sponte Duty To Instruct On Unconsciousness When Defendant Testified He Was Conscious. People v. Wright (4/4/2012, B228640) 204 CA4th 1084: There is no error in failing to instruct on voluntary intoxication and unconsciousness when the defendant’s testimony made clear that he was conscious of his actions when he killed the victim.
PC 243(d): Instruction Defining Serious Bodily Injury. People v. Wade (4/9/2012, A126393) 204 CA4th 1142: Judge properly defined SBI in terms of PC 243(f)(4).
PC 243(d): Only Requires Injury Defined In PC 243(f)(4). People v. Wade (4/9/2012, A126393) 204 CA4th 1142: A violation of Penal Code section 243(d), battery with serious bodily injury, requires only an injury as defined in subdivision (f)(4) and it does not require a showing of medical treatment. (See also CC 3160.)
PC 243(d): Amendment To PC 487(a) Is Retroactive. People v. Wade (4/9/2012, A126393) 204 CA4th 1142: In 2010, PC 487(a) was amended to define grand theft as the taking of property worth more than $950. This revision is retroactive and applies to cases not yet final at the time of its passage notwithstanding an alternative theory of grand theft which does not depend on value.
PC 550(b)(3): Failure To Disclose. People v. Kurtenbach (4/12/2012, D058933) 204 CA4th 1264: The offense of failing to disclose an event affecting an insurance benefit (PC550(b)(3)) does not violate the privilege against self incrimination.
Judge Erroneously Deferred Discretionary Sex Registration Decision. People v. Allexy (4/16/2012, C066883) 204 CA4th 1358: A trial court must decide whether to require discretionary sex registration at the time sentence is imposed; it may not defer that decision to a later date when a previously imposed sentence is executed.
Continuing Custodial Interrogation. People v. Bejasa (4/19/2012, E051308) 205 CA4th 26: A person who is handcuffed and placed in a police car is still subject to custodial interrogation even after he is released from restraints prior to questioning.
Sex Offender Registration: Multiple Convictions. People v. Villegas (4/26/2012, B231177) 205 CA4th 642: There may be separate convictions for a sex offender’s: (1) failure to file a change of address; and (2) failure to notify the responsible agency of his new address, even though one sentence must be stayed.
Improper To Charge Defendant With Conspiracy To Violate PC 186.22(a). People v. Johnson (4/26/2012, F057736) 205 CA4th 594: Because a criminal street gang is a form of conspiracy, a defendant cannot properly be charged with conspiracy to actively participate in a criminal street gang (PC 186.22(a)).
Judge Properly Refused To Impose Both A Gang And Gun Use Enhancement. People v. Le (4/27/2012, D057392) 205 CA4th 739: The trial court did not err when it found that it lacked discretion under the facts of the case to impose both a personal gun use enhancement under Penal Code section 12022.5, subdivision (a), and a gang enhancement under PC 186.22, (b)(1)(B) or (b)(1)(C). Note: Review was granted in this case. (People v. Le REV GTD (7/25/2012, S202921) 205 CA4th 739.)
CC 2160 Incorrectly Describes The Elements Of VD 20001(c). People v. Vela (4/30/2012, C066404) 205 CA4th 942: VC 20001(c), provides a sentence enhancement for gross vehicular manslaughter when an intoxicated driver flees the scene of the crime and there is substantial evidence to support the finding even when the driver leaves her identification in the car before fleeing. The contrary language in CC 2160 is legally inaccurate. The purpose of the statute is to preserve evidence of a DUI. Evidence would have potentially been lost if appellant had escaped detection and remained in hiding until her level of intoxication could no longer be reliably determined.
Judge Erroneously Denied A Defense Request To Give CC 3428 On Mental Disorder. People v. Larsen (4/30/2012, A128973) 205 CA4th 810: At his trial for conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder, appellant testified that he had learning disabilities and engaged in role-playing games with another inmate who orchestrated the role playing related to their cases and threatened appellant if he did not play along. A defense expert testified about Asperger’s Syndrome, appellant’s diagnosis, and features of defendant’s disorder that were pertinent to negate the intent element of the solicitation and conspiracy offenses. The trial court erred by failing to give the CALCRIM 3428 mental disorder instruction requested by the defense. The evidence that appellant suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, and its manifested symptoms, directly and materially reflected on his claim that he did not actually intend to solicit the victim’s murder, but instead was engaged in some form of game playing brought on by his mental disorder. The defense was not required to present additional evidence that appellant’s Asperger’s Syndrome impaired his ability to form the requisite criminal intent. Nevertheless, in view of the instructions as a whole, the jury’s findings, and the arguments of counsel, the error in failing to provide the pinpoint instruction was harmless and the judgment was affirmed.
Multiplicity: ID Theft – Possessing ID For Three Constitutes Three Separate Offenses. People v. Valenzuela (4/30/2012, B230574) 205 CA4th 800: A defendant may be convicted of three counts of identity theft under PC 530.5(c)(1), based upon his or her possession of personal identifying information relating to three victims.