CALIFORNIA CASE LAW UPDATE – Selected California Cases
California Supreme Court (December 1-31, 2008)
There were no relevant California Supreme Court cases for December.
Grants Of Review:
People v. Soto REV GTD (12/10/2008, S167531) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7452: Is the victim’s consent a defense to a charge of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 years of age by “use of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury” (PC 288(b))?
In re David V. REV GTD (12/17/2008, S167716) 166 CA4th 801: (1) Was there sufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding that the minor possessed metal knuckles within the meaning of PC 12020(c)(7)? (2) Did the juvenile court fail to declare the offense a felony or a misdemeanor, as required by WI 702?
People v. Chun REV GTD (12/19/2007, S157601) 155 CA4th 170: The court limited the issues to be argued in this case to all of the issues concerning whether the trial court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury on second degree felony murder. The court granted respondent leave to file a supplemental letter brief responding to defendant’s argument that the jury should decide any question regarding the merger doctrine.
People v. Lara REV GTD (9/25/2007, S155481)2007 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5780: The court directed briefing in this case, in which briefing was previously deferred pending decision in People v. Price REV GTD (6/13/2007, S151207) 147 CA4th 955, and directed the parties to address the following questions in addition to the issue stated in the petition for review: (1) Does PC 1026.5 authorize the confinement of a defendant pending a recommitment hearing when the prosecution files a recommitment petition, without good cause, so late that the defense is unable to prepare for trial before the commitment expires? (2) Do the facts of this case allow this court to reach question No. 1? (3) In the absence of a time waiver, does a trial court have jurisdiction to continue an NGI recommitment hearing beyond the expiration date of the defendant’s current commitment? (4) If the court loses jurisdiction to hold a committee once the NGI commitment expires, is there any other authority for the court to order a committee held for the protection of the committee or others?
People v. Cobb REV GTD (3/12/2008, S159410) 157 CA4th 393: The court directed the parties to file simultaneous letter briefs directed to the following questions: (1) Does PC 2972 authorize the continued confinement of a person previously found to be a Mentally Disordered Offender when the trial on the continuation petition has not commenced before the person was otherwise to have been released, the person has not waived time, and good cause for the delay has not been shown? (2) Do the facts in this case allow this court to reach question No. 1? (3) In the absence of a time waiver or good cause for a continuance, does a trial court have jurisdiction to continue an MDO continuation hearing beyond the expiration date of the defendant’s current commitment? (4) If the court loses jurisdiction to hold a committee once the MDO commitment expires, is there any other authority for the court to order a committee held for the protection of the committee or others?
In re David V. REV GTD (12/17/2008, S167716) 166 CA4th 801 The court ordered the issues to be briefed and argued limited to the following: Was there sufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding that the minor possessed metal knuckles within the meaning of PC 12020(c)(7)?
California Courts of Appeal (December 1-31, 2008)
People v. Rubin (12/1/2008, B201672) 168 CA4th 1144: Trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding, as of little or no relevance, in a trial for sale and possession of marijuana, the defense evidence that the defendant considered the place where marijuana was allegedly possessed and sold to be a house of worship and considered the distribution of marijuana to be part of his religion. Religious freedom guarantee of the federal statutes (see Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 USC 2000bb et. seq.) and of the California Constitution did not protect the defendant’s possession and sale of marijuana where there was no evidence the drug was possessed as part of a sacramental rite or that the defendant had to possess marijuana in order to practice his religion. (See People v. Torres (82) 133 CA3d 598, 608-609.) The Court of Appeal found that, unlike People v. Woody (64) 61 C2d 716, the ceremonial use of marijuana is not the sine qua non of appellant’s faith and religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are protected, conduct is not.
People v. Hassan (12/3/2008, Pub’d 12/8/2008, B194141) 168 CA4th 1306: A marriage license qualifies as an “instrument” which can subject a person to prosecution under PC 115(a) for offering a false or forged instrument for recording.
In re C.R. (12/9/2008, B205565) 168 Cal. App. 4th 1387: The juvenile court was not required to make an express finding of the degree of murder where the accusatory pleading specifically charged first degree.
In re Z. R. (12/11/2008, F054835) 168 CA 4th 1510: A box cutter with an exposed blade falls within those prohibited weapons listed in PC 626.10(a), prohibiting specified weapons on school grounds.
People v. Vigil (12/12/2008, H032972) 169 CA4th 8: Article I, section 15, of the California Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to counsel of an attorney admitted to the State Bar, and the right is violated when the attorney representing a defendant resigns from the Bar with charges pending during a defendant’s trial. And such error is reversible per se.
People v. Villanueva (12/12/2008, B202418) 169 CA4th 41: Defendant was entitled to a jury instruction on self-defense (CALCRIM 3470) and attempted voluntary manslaughter by means of imperfect self-defense where a jury could have found a volitional shooting in self-defense despite defendant’s assertion of an accident. Generally, self-defense and an accidental shooting are mutually exclusive or inconsistent. (See People v. Sedeno (74) 10 C3d 717-718.) A defendant generally only receives a self-defense instruction if the jury disbelieved his assertion that the shooting was accidental. (People v. Elize (99) 71 CA4th 605, 610.) Self-defense is consistent with an intentional shooting not an accidental one. (People v. Curtis (94) 30 CA4th 1337, 1354-1357.) Where a defendant relied on a theory that shooting was committed by accident while defendant was lawfully acting in self-defense, without any unlawful intent, the jury should be instructed on excusable homicide. (People v. Slater (43) 60 CA2d 358, 369.) When a defendant draws a weapon in self-defense, but fires accidentally, the shooting is not in self-defense, but an accident.
Lewis v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County (12/15/2008, H032621) 169 CA4th 70: A person convicted of oral copulation with a minor under the age of 18 (PC 288a(b)(1)) is not subject to mandatory registration as a sex offender under PC 290, and is subject to discretionary registration under PC 290.006 only if the record supports a basis for the court’s order in the exercise of its discretion.
People v. Felix (12/16/2008, A115717) 169 CA4th 607: Due process does not require proof of a recent overt act to establish dangerousness sufficient to warrant civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Program Act, where the offender has been in custody prior to trial on the civil commitment.
In re Noelle M. (12/16/2008, C056780) 169 CA4th 193: The illegal sale of methadone to five separate individuals over the course of several hours constitutes five unique acts with separate objectives such that sentencing for each sale is not precluded by PC 654.
People v. Martinez et al. (12/16/2008, B194836) 169 CA4th 199: (1) Where the defendant agreed to a jury instruction after unsuccessfully objecting and unsuccessfully moving for a judgment of acquittal on grounds that instruction was unsupported by substantial evidence, he did not waive the objection on appeal. (People v. Viramontes (2001) 93 CA4th 1256, 1264 [no invited error when defense counsel initially opposes but ultimately acquiesces in the trial court’s ruling.) Additionally, because the ruling affected the defendant’s substantial rights, the Court of Appeal is permitted to review the instruction even if the defendant had failed to object. (People v. Dennis (98) 17 C4th 468, 534-535.) (2) The record did not contain substantial evidence that the murders and attempted murder were the natural and probable consequences of an alleged breach of the peace or an alleged misdemeanor assault arising from a “where are you from” challenge absent any indication of a likelihood that a shooting or homicide would result from such challenge. Therefore, the trial court erred by including that disturbing the peace and simple assault as target crimes in an instruction on aider and abettor liability for natural and probable consequences, and such error was prejudicial.
In re Franklin (12/17/2008, F055684) 169 CA4th 386: Where a felony conviction has been reversed on appeal before an SVP petition is filed, SVP proceedings cannot be initiated against the defendant based on those charges unless the defendant is retried and convicted again.
People v. Yarbrough (12/17/2008, A120721) 169 CA4th 303: PC12025(a)(2) (carrying a concealed firearm) is not constitutionally overbroad and does not violate the Second Amendment.
People v. Yarbrough (12/17/2008, A120721) 169 CA4th 303: Jury instructions – Driveway as public place: Jury instruction that informed jury that defendant did not have to be on sidewalk to be in a public place but which left it to jury to determine if driveway was accessible to the public did not improperly direct a verdict. (See People v. Moore (97) 59 CA4th 168, 181.) Driveway did not have be publicly owned to be accessible to the public.
People v. Flores (12/19/2008, D051215) 169 CA4th 568: PC 12021(c)(1), PC 12025(a)(2), and PC 12031(a)(1), do not violate federal constitutional rights protected by the Second Amendment per District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) ____ US ____ [171 LEd2d 637; 128 SCt 2783].
People v. Manfredi (12/22/2008, F054453) 169 CA4th 622: The simultaneous possession of multiple child pornography materials at the same location can only be charged as a single criminal offense under PC 311.11.
People v. Martin (12/24/2008, B204132) 169 CA4th 822: Where the information and the evidence presented at trial specified cocaine base as the controlled substance in the alleged HS 11350, subdivision (a) violation, the jury’s recording of the guilty verdict on the typed form naming cocaine as the substance did not result in a due process violation as there was sufficient evidence to support a violation of cocaine base. Although the typed CALCRIM 2304 jury instruction referred to the substance as “cocaine,” the court’s oral instruction referred to the substance as cocaine base. A violation of section 11350, subdivision (a), which criminalizes possession of a controlled substance, can be based on possession of either cocaine or cocaine base.
People v. Bradford (12/29/2008, A116899) 169 CA4th 843: A defendant’s statement to police during an interrogation is inadmissible in the prosecution’s case-in-chief unless all four of the Miranda warnings were given prior to the interrogation, regardless of defendant’s understanding of his rights.
People v. Adams (12/30/08, F053355) 169 CA4th 1009: Arsonist could be convicted of attempted murder of others in house she set on fire even though she did not know they were present. Appellant possessed express malice because she had the specific intent to kill the one victim and created a zone of harm or kill zone, and other victims were within zone of harm. Trial court did not err in giving CALCRIM 600.
U.S. Supreme Court
Hedgpeth v. Pulido (12/2/2008, # 07-544) ____ US ____ [172 Ld2d 388; 129 SCt 530]: A conviction based on a jury verdict where the jury was instructed on alternative theories of guilt, one of which was invalid, and the jury may have relied on the invalid one, is error but is not subject to reversal on habeas corpus unless the invalid theory had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.
Sechrest v. Ignacio (12/5/2008, 9th Cir. No. 04-99004) 549 F3d 789: Death penalty sentence invalidated for (1) gross misconduct by prosecutor in telling jurors during voir dire and argument that defendant could be released on parole if given a life sentence and (2) ineffective assistance of counsel when trial attorney allowed a witness, who had evaluated defendant at the defense’s request, to testify for the prosecution.
Tennison v. City and Co. of San Francisco (12/8/2008, 9th Cir., No. 06-15426) 548 F3d 1293: Brady imposes a duty on police officers, as well as prosecutors, to disclose exculpatory evidence. “Brady suppression occurs when the government fails to turn over evidence that is ‘known only to police investigators and not to the prosecutor.’” (Youngblood v. West Virginia (2006) 547 US 867.) To hold otherwise would undermine Brady by allowing a prosecutor to tell investigators not to give him or her certain information unless specifically requested.
Gonzalez v. Duncan (12/20/2008, 9th Cir. No. 06-56523) 551 F3d 875: A sentence of 28 years to life imprisonment under California’s “Three Strikes” law violates the Eighth Amendment where: 1) the offense was Petitioner’s failure to update his annual sex offender registration within five working days of his birthday; and 2) he was living at his registered address throughout the relevant time period. Habeas relief is warranted because the state court’s application of the gross disproportionality principle was objectively unreasonable.