CALIFORNIA CASE LAW UPDATE – Selected California Cases
California Supreme Court (June 1-30, 2009)
People v. Medina (6/22/2009, S155823) 46 C4th 913: Homicide – Natural Consequence Of Target Assault: Shooting death of victim was reasonably foreseeable consequence of assault by gang members on another gang, and murder convictions of non-shooters affirmed.
In re Martinez (6/29/2009, S141480) 46 C4th 945: State Habeas Corpus – Vienna Convention Argument In Successive Petition: In light of Medellin v. Texas (2008) 552 US ___ [170 LEd2d 190; 128 SCt 1346], California Supreme Court holds that petitioner was precluded from renewing Vienna Convention claim because he had previously raised it in his first habeas petition and the claim had been denied on the merits. Petition is successive and he failed to demonstrate any change in circumstances. Petitioner had cited the International Court of Justice’s decision in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. U.S.) 2004 I.C.J. 12 (Judgment of Mar. 31), but did not argue it.
Grants Of Review:
The court ordered the following cases transferred 6/10/2009 to reconsideration in light of People v. Chun (2009) 45 C4th 1172:
People v. Spillman REV GTD (7/16/2008, S163791) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3446.
People v. Iraheta REV GTD (8/13/2008, S164168) 2006 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 750.
People v. Martinez REV GTD (11/19/2008, S166970) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7194.
Review in the following case was dismissed 6/10/2009 in light of People v. Chun (2009) 45 C4th 1172:
People v. Jones REV GTD (3/26/2008, S159867) 157 CA4th 580.
People v. Superior Court (Pearson) REV GTD (4/15/2009, S171117) 2009 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1008: On 6/10/2009 the court ordered briefing in this case, in which briefing was previously deferred pending decision in Barnett v. Superior Court REV GTD (9/17/2008, S165522) 164 CA4th 18. The case presents the following issue: Is PC 1054.9 an unconstitutional amendment to the criminal discovery statutes enacted by Proposition 115?
People v. Freeman REV GTD (5/23/2007, S150984) 147 CA4th 517: On 6/24/2009 the court requested the parties to file supplemental letter briefs discussing the impact, if any, of the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. (6/8/2009, No. 08-22) 550 US ____ [173 LEd2d 1208; 129 SCt. 2252] on the issue on which review was granted in this case: Was defendant’s due process right to a fair trial violated based on an appearance of bias when the trial judge initially recused himself but then accepted reassignment after the basis for the initial disqualification proved to be unfounded?
California Courts of Appeal (June 1-30, 2009)
People v. James (6/2/2009, C057995) 174 CA4th 662: Weapons –Assault Weapon Not Protected By Second Amendment: Possession of assault weapon, a violation of PC 12280, is not protected by Second Amendment as construed in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 US ___ [171 LEd2d 637; 128 SCt 2783]. Court concludes that “… assault weapons, like machine guns, are not in common use by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes and likewise fall within the category of dangerous and unusual weapons that the government can prohibit for individual use.”
In re Ebaniz (6/3/2009, F055939) 174 CA4th 743: In a habeas action, newly discovered evidence that is substantial and credible and undermines the prosecution’s entire case may warrant a new trial.
People v. Gerold (6/3/2009, E045848) 174 CA4th 781: Defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity was not factually innocent for purposes of statute permitting sealing of arrest records.
Moore v. Superior Court (6/4/2009, B198550) 174 CA4th 856: Sexually Violent Predators – Mandate To Conduct Psych Exam: As matter of constitutional due process, a defendant cannot be subjected to trial as alleged sexually violent predator while mentally incompetent.
People v. Aldana et al. (6/8/2009, G040320) 174 CA4th 1025: Fraud – Sufficiency Of Evidence: Evidence insufficient to support PC 424(a)(3) convictions (prohibiting those charged with control over public moneys from keeping false accounts). Timesheets signed by supervisor did not accurately reflect employee’s hours, though prosecutor admitted employee actually worked more hours than he was paid. Employee was not “officer of state … [or] person charged with” keeping public moneys. Evidence of supervisor’s guilty knowledge insufficient under “well-settled Supreme Court precedent” (People v. Salas (2006) 37 C4th 196.)
People v. Haller (6/9/2009, C056282) 174 CA4th 1080: Sentencing – 78 To Life Not Cruel Or Unusual: Sentence of 78 years to life under Three Strikes, following multiple convictions of criminal threats, stalking, and assault upheld against challenge of cruel or unusual punishment. See People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 C4th 497.
People v. Ugalino (6/9/2009, C055469) 174 CA4th 1060: Robbery – Attempted Robbery Evidence Insufficient: Defendant could not be convicted of attempted robbery of person who did not have actual or constructive possession of property taken. Compare, People v. Gordon (1982) 136 CA3d 519 [parents had ownership and residence of house where adult son’s drugs were kept, so could be victims of robbery].
People v. Hodges (6/9/2009, C059391) 174 CA4th 1096: Appeals – Challenge To Certificate Requirement: PC 1237.5 and Cal. Rule of Court 8.304(b) requirement of certificate of probable cause to appeal following guilty plea does not violate federal due process and equal protection rights, even if the defendant suffers from mental deficiencies, because defendants only need to ask for guidance from trial counsel. Preparing request for certificate of probable cause is part of trial counsel’s duty to file notice of appeal. (People v. Ribero (1971) 4 C3d 55, 66.)
People v. Meredith (6/15/2009, C057232) 174 CA4th 1257: Burglary Instructions; Forcing Defendant To Wear Jail Clothing: CALCRIM 1701, defining the crime of burglary, requires no modification as it includes an adequate definition of whether the structure was inhabited, a necessary element for first degree burglary. At trial, the defendant requested modification of CALCRIM 1701 to ionsert the word “currently” into the definition of the instruction so as to state, “A house is inhabited if someone currently uses it as a dwelling ….,” This request was denied. The appellate court upheld the denial, noting that for purposes of first degree burglary, a dwelling need not be currently occupied, and in determining whether it is occupied for purposes of the crime, California law looks to the intent of the occupant insofar as whether he/she intends to return, and not the length of absence. (People v. Marquez (1983) 143 CA3d 797.) Here, as there was no doubt that the owner intended to return to his house, regardless of his ability to do so, for purposes of the law, the dwelling was inhabited.
Requiring a defendant to appear for jury trial in jail clothing is a violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial, but is not reversible per se. Prior to trial defense counsel advised the court that because of defendant’s large size, he had not yet been able to secure civilian clothing and requested a delay until clothing had been obtained. The court denied the request and appellant was required to wear orange jail clothing throughout the trial. The appellate court agreed that compelling a defendant to go to trial wearing jail clothing violates his constitutional right to a fair trial, due process, and equal protection. However, the error is not reversible per se. And here, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because appellant’s credibility was not at issue since he did not testify and made no pre-trial statements; there were no significant evidentiary disputes; there was no highlighting by the prosecution that the orange jumpsuit was jail clothing; and the jury was instructed to form no bias against the defendant because of the clothing.
People v. Dillon et al. (6/16/2009, A117853) 174 CA4th 1367: CALCRIM 1045 read in conjunction with CALCRIM No. 890 adequately instructs the jury that if the prosecution failed to prove complainant’s lack of consent, defendant cannot be convicted of assault with intent to commit forcible sexual penetration. Unless there is substantial evidence of equivocal conduct by the victim that would cause defendant to have a good faith belief as to consent, the court is not required to give a mistake of fact instructions with respect to defendant’s belief as to consent. (People v. Mayberry (1992) 15 C3d 143.)
People v. Cortes (6/16/2009, B206770) 174 CA4th 1335: Held that in a prosecution for first-degree murder and attempted murder with a criminal street gang enhancement allegation (PC 186.22; People v. Sengpadychith (2001) 26 C4th 316, 323-324; see also People v. Gardeley (1996) 14 C4th 605, 621-622.), substantial evidence established that the “primary activities” of the street gang included murder and attempted murder.
People v. Mirenda (6/16/2009, D053261) 174 CA4th 1313: A 26-year delay in the arrest of defendant following the filing of the complaint may result in a federal due process violation, as well as a violation of a defendant’s state constitutional right to a speedy trial, justifying dismissal of the action.
People v. Sweeney (6/24/2009, E043410) 175 CA4th 210: Civil Commitment – Findings Require Jury Trial: Judge improperly instructed the jury re: WI 6500 when he determined that the findings that the underlying charges involved violence was a question of law, and not a question for the jury. Decision follows teachings of People v. Figueroa (1986) 41 C3d 714 and People v. Hedgecock (1990) 51 C3d 395.
People v. Ulloa (6/26/2009, B201072) 175 CA4th 405: Priors – Three Strikes – Misdemeanor Punished As Felony Not “Serious”: Misdemeanor punished as felony under PC 186.22(d) is not a “serious felony” under PC 1192.7(c)(28).
People v. Bamberg (6/30/2009, A120767) 175 CA4th 618: The determination of whether evidence is false under PC 134 (preparing false evidence) turns on the purpose for which the evidence is offered and not whether the evidence itself is false.
U.S. Supreme Court (June 1-30, 2009)
Bobby v. Bies (6/1/2009, No. 08-598) ___ US ___ [173 LEd2d 1173; 129 SCt 2145]: Mental Defenses – Reconsideration Of Capacity After Atkins: No violation of double jeopardy for trial court to reconsider defendant’s mental retardation after Atkins v. Virginia (2002) 536 US 304 [holding Eighth Amendment bars execution of mentally retarded offenders].
Boyle v. United States (6/8/2009, No. 07-1309) ___ US ___ [173 LEd2d 1265; 129 SCt 2237]: Racketeering – Structure Of The Association: Instructions that told jurors they had to find existence of enterprise that is separate from pattern of racketeering activity was correct. Existence may be proved by what enterprise does, rather than abstract analysis of structure. See United States v. Turkette (1981) 452 US 576.
Yeager v. U.S. (6/18/2009, No. 08-67) ____ US ____ [174 LEd2d 78; 129 SCt 2360]: Double Jeopardy And Hung Juries: This case involves a criminal prosecution arising from the Enron scandal. The jury acquitted the defendant on some counts and hung on others. The USSC held: “Thus, if the possession of insider information was a critical issue of ultimate fact in all of the charges against petitioner, a jury verdict that necessarily decided that issue in his favor protects him from prosecution for any charge for which that is an essential element.”
District Attorney v. Osborne (6/18/2009, No. 08-6) ____ US ____ [174 LEd2d 38; 129 SCt 2308]: Appellant has no constitutional right to obtain post-conviction access to the State’s evidence for DNA testing.
Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (6/25/2009, No. 07-591) ___ US ___ [174 LEd2d 314; 129 SCt 2527]: Hearsay – Criminalist Report Violates Sixth Amendment: Court majority (Scalia, Stevens, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg) rules that admitting certificates of state laboratory analysts reporting on test results violates Sixth Amendment confrontation clause.
9th Circuit (June 1-30, 2009)
Holley v. Yarborough (6/16/2009, 9th Cir. No. 08-15104) 568 F3d 1091: The trial court’s denial of defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective cross-examination through introduction of evidence that the complaining witness made prior claims of her own sexual appeal, so as to show bias of the witness, is a violation of defendant’s right to a fair trial.
United States v. Tran (6/24/2009, 9th Cir. No. 07-30270) 568 F3d 1156: Drugs – Insufficient Evidence Of Conspiracy: Although co-defendant’s plea agreement was admissible as prior inconsistent statement to impeach co-defendant’s trial testimony that was favorable to defendant, “the evidence was insufficient to show that [defendant] had even a slight connection to the conspiracy.” The government’s proof was “only amounts to” the defendant’s presence as a passenger in a car containing large amounts of marijuana in the trunk, and defendant’s knowledge of marijuana distribution tactics, admitted only to show knowledge.