CALIFORNIA CASE LAW UPDATE – Selected California Cases
California Supreme Court (June 1 – June 30, 2008)
People v. Gonzalez (6/2/2008, S149898) 43 C4th 1118: When a judge imposes punishment for a firearm enhancement under PC 12022.53, any remaining 12022.53 enhancements and any PC 12022.5 firearm enhancements that were found true for the same crime must be imposed and stayed, instead of being struck.
Verdin v. Superior Court (6/2/2008, S143040 43 C4th 1096: When a defendant relies on a “diminished actuality” defense, the prosecution is not entitled under PC 1054 (discovery in criminal cases), to access to defendant for purposes of a mental examination conducted by a prosecution expert.
People v. Najera (6/5/2008, S141654) 43 C4th 1132: The court is not required to give sua sponte CJ 2.15 that possession of recently stolen property is alone insufficient to support a conviction of a theft-related offense but that corroborating evidence need only be slight and need not be sufficient itself to prove guilt, where instructions taken as a whole fully educated the jury as to the permissible uses of all circumstantial evidence, including defendant’s possession of stolen car. The court specifically disapproved any contrary notion set forth in People v. Clark (53) 122 CA2d 342, and People v. Smith (50) 98 CA2d 723 which implied that CJ 2.15 should be given in all theft-related cases where the facts support the instruction.(See also CALCRIM 376 [Possession of Recently Stolen Property as Evidence of a Crime].)
Alcala v. Superior Court (6/12/2008, S150806) 43 C4th 1205: Under PC 790(b), any crime that is connected together in its commission with a given murder charge may also be charged and tried along with that murder, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to sever multiple murder charges that occurred within separate counties within a 19-month period where evidence underlying each would be cross-admissible at separate trials.
People v. Nelson (6/16/2008, S147051) 43 C4th 1242: Where a “cold hit” DNA match resulted in the defendant being charged with murder 28 years after the crime occurred, justification for the “purely investigative” delay outweighed the “minimal” resulting prejudice so that the delay did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process.
People v. Towne (6/26/2008, S125677) 44 C4th 63: An upper term sentence based on the aggravating factor of a prior prison term, commission of an offense while on probation or parole, or poor probation/parole adjustment based on commission of a new offense does not violate the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial on aggravating factors because these factors fall within the Almendarez-Torres exception to the jury trial right.
Grants Of Review:
People v. Bergara REV GTD (6/18/2008, S162896) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2378: Briefing deferred pending decision in People v. Cross REV GTD (3/01/2006, S139791)134 CA4th 500, which includes the following issues: (1) Can a legal, surgical abortion support an enhancement under PC 12022.7 for the defendant’s personal infliction of great bodily injury in committing the offense that led to the victim’s pregnancy? (2) Can the pregnancy itself constitute such great bodily injury?
People v. Stone REV GTD (6/25/2008, S162675) 160 CA4th 937: (1) In a prosecution for a single count of attempted murder, did the trial court err by instructing the jury on the “kill zone” concept (see People v. Bland (2002) 28 C4th 313) when defendant fired a single shot into a crowd although he was ostensibly not shooting at anyone in particular and there was no “primary” target? (2) Did substantial evidence support defendant’s conviction for attempted murder in this case?
People v. Pinks REV GTD (6/25/2008, S163214) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2582: Briefing deferred pending decision in People v. Scott REV GTD (11/16/2005, S136498) 2005 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6285, which presents the following issue: Did the trial court err in instructing the jury that all employees have constructive possession of their employer’s property during a robbery, and, if so, what is the proper standard for determining whether an employee has constructive possession of the employer’s property during a robbery?
California Courts of Appeal (June 1 – June 30, 2008)
People v. Mauch (6/3/2008, G038602) 163 CA4th 669: Because HS 11358 is not a “wobbler” crime and is punishable only by a state prison sentence, the court does not have the authority under PC 17 to impose alternative misdemeanor punishment. Likewise, because section 11358 does not provide for a fine as alternative punishment, the court does not have authority under PC 18 to exercise that section’s misdemeanor option.
People v. Bautista (6/3/2008, H030458) 163 CA4th 762: Appellant was properly convicted of PC 289(d)(4), (sexual penetration of a person who is unconscious) because he fraudulently claimed to be acting for a “professional purpose,” as the pastor of the teenage victim, and told her he was checking to see if she was still a virgin as required by church teaching.
People v. Carrasco (6/6/2008, B193002) 163 CA4th 978: There was sufficient evidence of attempted arson where appellant entered a sheriff’s station with gasoline and a lighter. PC 148(a) may be a lesser included offense of PC 69 in a proper case, but there was no substantial evidence supporting the lesser offense here.
Uybungco v. Superior Court (5/21/2008, ordered pub’d 6/9/2008, D051900) 163 CA4th 1043: Petition for a writ of mandate seeking reversal of a trial court ruling denying discovery from the personnel files of four police officers involved in his arrest on misdemeanor charges is granted where petitioner had satisfied the low legal threshold required to obtain limited discovery from police personnel files under applicable case precedents.
People v. Carrillo (6/9/2008, B199656) 163 CA4th 1028: (1) Defendant’s due process rights were not violated when the prosecution’s refusal to ask federal immigration officials to issue special visas for two exculpatory witnesses who lived in Mexico, where no evidence was placed before the trial court that explained the witnesses’ immigration status, showed that any steps had been taken to secure regular visas, or otherwise showed that the witnesses’ attendance would not be possible without the requested court orders. (See United States v. Filippi (1st Cir., 1990) 918 F.2d 244.)
(2) Where the facts indicated that the defendant was one of several persons who shot at the victim who was struck by bullets fired from several different guns, and there was no evidence that the defendant had fired one of those guns, the trial court erred by instructing the jury that a great bodily harm allegation was true if the conduct of the defendant or a co-perpetrator harmed the victim, but failing to instruct that the concurrent causes could operate together to determine proximate cause. However, the error was not prejudicial because the jury necessarily found the defendant proximately caused the victim’s death as part of the murder verdict. (See People v. Bland (2002) 28 C4th 313, 335-338.)
(3) Where the evidence of the defendant’s guilt rested primarily on eyewitness identification and statements attributed to defendant about the defendant’s participation in the crime, not on his flight from the scene, the trial court’s failure to sua sponte instruct the jury with CJ 2.52 [regarding flight], was harmless.
People v. Ramos (6/9/2008, A117168) 163 CA4th 1082: (1) CALCRIM 220 [reasonable doubt instruction instructs a jury to “impartially compare and consider all the evidence that was received throughout the entire trial,” but which does not specifically state that prosecution must prove “each element,” adequately explains the applicable law. (2) Where trial court allowed the defendant to introduce evidence as to how his police interview was conducted and why statements obtained during the interview were not reliable, and instructed jury under CALCRIM 358 to weigh evidence of statements in context and in light of how they were obtained, it did not err in denying defendant’s request for a special jury instruction regarding coercive police interrogations.
People v. Torres (6/16/2008, F053132) 163 CA4th 1420: The principles of double jeopardy and the mandate of PC 1170(d) prohibit imposition of a sentence greater than the original where the original sentence was not a legally unauthorized lenient sentence.
People v. Tidwell (6/17/2008, C054142) 163 CA4th 1447: The admissibility of an alleged prior false complaint of rape to impeach the credibility of the complaining witness as to the issue of consent in a prosecution for rape is not governed by PC 782. PC 782 provides a procedure by which a defendant may attempt to attack the credibility of the complaining witness by introducing evidence of the witness’s sexual conduct. If the defendant provides a sufficient offer of proof, the court must allow defendant to question the complaining witness outside the presence of the jury to determine if the witness will recant and thereby be subject to impeachment. Prior to trial on rape and other charges, defendant asserted a consent defense and filed a motion to admit evidence pursuant to PC 782. The intended evidence dealt with two prior rape complaints by the complaining witness that defendant claimed were false. The trial court excluded the evidence pursuant to EC 352, noting the evidence that the complaints were false was weak. Rejecting appellant’s claim that he provided a sufficient offer of proof to entitle him to question the witness pursuant to section 782, the appellate court ruled that section 782 was inapplicable because it was the allegedly false complaints that were sought as impeachment rather than prior sexual conduct.
In re White (6/18/2008, F054327) 163 CA4th 1576: Ex post facto considerations do not apply where prosecution is commenced under a revised statute of limitations of a statute deemed to be a modification of a prior statue of limitations and not an abrogation of it.
People v. Sons (6/19/2008, B192825) 164 CA4th 90: (1) A court need not review a double jeopardy claim where it was previously raised and rejected on appeal.
(2) A trial judge in subsequent trial is not bound by trial rulings made during a previous trial by a previous trial judge. Appellant also contended that the trial court erred when it refused to give a sanction jury instruction crafted for the second and third trials and an instruction “clarifying” appellant’s self defense claim. Appellant contended that the first trial court’s ruling bound the subsequent trial court called upon to rule on the same issue. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the law of the case doctrine does not apply to rulings of the trial court including jury instructions.
(3) The jury was instructed with CJ 16.106 which instructs properly on self defense as it applies where an officer uses excessive force to make an arrest. Any error would have been harmless anyway because appellant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Barnett v. Superior Court (People) (6/19/2008, C051311) 164 CA4th 18: PC 1054.9 is not an invalid amendment to the criminal discovery statutes. For purposes of applying the statute: 1) in requesting materials pursuant to section 1054.9, a defendant does not have to provide the prosecution with an inventory of every single document or other item the defendant possesses already; 2) section 1054.9 does not give a defendant the right to have the court order duplicative discovery; 3) section 1054.9 does not provide a vehicle for a defendant to enforce any obligation the prosecution may have to produce exculpatory evidence they did not possess at time of trial; and 4) an unsworn denial of the existence of any further responsive documents is not a valid basis for upholding the denial of a defendant’s motion for discovery under section 1054.9.
People v. Superior Court (George) (6/23/2008, A120536) 164 CA4th 183: For an SVP recommitment, it is sufficient to show that public safety required at least a commitment to a supervised community placement.
In re Rothwell (6/23/2008, D051584) 164 CA4th 160: Where an inmate never possessed the heroin-tainted postcard sent to him, sanctions imposed for possession of heroin violated his rights.
Tyrone B. v. Superior Court (5/30/2008, ordered pub’d 6/24/2008, C058142) 164 CA4th 227: Where counsel expresses doubt as to a minor’s competency to stand trial, the juvenile court may not defer appointment of an expert.
People v. Mitchell (6/26/2008, C052649) 164 CA4th 442: PC 530.5(a), (unlawful use of personal identifying information) is committed each time an offender uses personal identifying information for an unlawful purpose.
People v. Holloway (6/26/2008, F053408) 164 CA4th 269: Involuntary intoxication is a complete defense and it is error for the trial court to refuse to so instruct.
People v. Boyle (6/26/2008, A117860) 164 CA4th 348: The 2006 amendment to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) does not violate federal and constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, or the prohibition against ex post facto laws.
People v.Lewis (6/30/2008, C055322) 164 CA4th 533: A felony conviction that has been reduced to a misdemeanor prior to the instant offense of possessing a firearm does not constitute the required predicate felony conviction for PC 12021(a)(1) (prohibited firearm possession by convicted felon).
People v. Wycoff (6/30/2008, B198572) 164 CA4th 410: A defendant has the right to appeal the trial court’s ruling after a conditional reversal for a new Pitchess motion. (Clarifying People v. Guevara (2007) 148 CA4th 62, 69.)