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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction of battery by gassing in violation of Penal Code section 243.9(a). The purpose of the battery by gassing statute is to deter individuals in custody from spitting on, or throwing feces or urine on, peace officers. In this case, the court rejected defendant's contention that a courtroom was not a local detention facility under section 243.9(a) and held that the courtroom constituted a "local detention facility" where the practical, reasonable, common sense interpretation of the statute promoted the Legislature's goal of protecting peace officers from battery by inmates. View "People v. Valdez" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Eric Jones guilty of multiple counts of second degree burglary of a vehicle and additional offenses arising from a series of car break-ins throughout San Francisco that occurred over a 17-month period. The trial court instructed the jury that if it found Jones committed one or more of the charged auto burglaries (along with one uncharged auto burglary) by a preponderance of the evidence, it could consider that evidence in deciding identity and intent to commit theft for the other charged crimes. The instruction reminded the jury that the prosecution had to prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Jones argued on appeal this instruction had the effect of lowering the prosecution’s burden of proof, and was structural error requiring automatic reversal. The Court of Appeal concluded the instruction should not have been given, but there was no structural error. Any error in giving the instruction was harmless. View "California v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner claimed that the prosecutor made improper statements during closing arguments. The court held that the prosecutor's comment on petitioner's failure to testify was not an invitation for the jury to consider petitioner's decision as evidence of his guilty. To the extent that any prejudice arose from the comment, the clear jury instructions cured it. The court also held that the prosecutor's argument concerning the Gangster Disciples did not prejudice petitioner. View "Clark v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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In this writ proceeding, the State sought relief from a discovery order requiring them to produce certain materials related to DNA testing in a criminal action. Petitioner Florencio Dominguez was accused of conspiracy to commit murder. Pertinent here, one piece of evidence expected to be introduced at his upcoming trial was central: results from DNA testing conducted on a pair of blood-soaked gloves found near the scene of the crime. No one disputed DNA testing established the blood on the gloves' exterior to be that of victim. DNA on swabs from the gloves' interior, however, could not be tied to a single source. Rather, those swabs yielded a low template DNA mixture with multiple contributors. The San Diego Police Department Crime Lab (the lab) tested the swabs using the STRmix program. In February 2018, defense counsel informally requested discovery of materials related to the STRmix program from the State. After review, the Court of Appeal granted the state’s application and issued a writ of mandate directing the superior court to: (1) vacate its order of March 29, 2018; (2) enter a new order denying defendant's motion to compel production of the STRmix software program, the program source code, and ESR's internal validation studies; and (3) conduct further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion with respect to the STRmix user manual. The stay issued on May 18, 2018 would be vacated when this opinion was final as to the Court of Appeal. View "California v. Superior Court (Dominguez)" on Justia Law

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In this capital appeal, both Appellant Lavar Brown and the Commonwealth challenged the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County's order dismissing Brown’s petition for relief filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act. The the parties requested the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order that Brown’s death sentence be vacated, that his case be remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County for the limited purpose of resentencing Brown to life without parole, and that the case then be transferred to the Superior Court for merits disposition of Brown's guilt phase claims. The Supreme Court reviewed the PCRA court record and determined Brown was not entitled to relief, and the PCRA court correctly denied Brown's petition. View "Pennsylvania v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for eight counts of health care fraud and eight counts of making false statements affecting a healthcare matter. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's guilty verdict where there was ample evidence in the record from which the jury could infer that in order to make insurance companies pay for something that otherwise fell outside their policies, defendant performed a cosmetic procedure on patients whom he intentionally misdiagnosed. The court held that the evidence also supported the finding that defendant committed fraud by submitting claims that IPL by itself destroyed 15 or more lesions caused by actinic keratosis, something he knew it could not do. Finally, the court declined to reach the merits of defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "United States v. Memar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of three counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice properly admitted testimony regarding previous restraining orders against Defendant and did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the “raise-or-waive” rule precluded Defendant from raising the issue of the admission of the challenged testimony, but even if Defendant had properly preserved the issue on appeal, defense counsel opened the door to the State’s inquiry on the topic during his cross-examination of the witness; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Romero" on Justia Law

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Darrell Goss was convicted of kidnapping, assault and battery with intent to kill (ABWIK), and armed robbery in connection with the armed robbery of a clothing store in North Charleston. In this post-conviction relief (PCR) matter, the PCR court denied relief, and the court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Goss's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme Court would apply its deferential standard of review to the PCR court’s findings. However, several witnesses were present at the PCR hearing and were prepared to testify to certain facts and circumstances. Some of these facts and circumstances were pertinent to evidence Goss claims should have been presented to the trial jury. Some of these facts and circumstances may have been pertinent to the dynamic surrounding trial counsel's alleged deficient failure to interview these individuals and perhaps call them as witnesses at trial. Under ordinary circumstances, once the witnesses testified at the PCR hearing, the PCR court would normally make findings as to their credibility. The Supreme Court determined the PCR court erred in taking judicial notice of the witnesses' testimony and then concluding these witnesses would not have been credible to a jury because of their relationships with Goss. “When a factfinder evaluates the credibility of witnesses, the mental process employed often requires the credibility evaluations to be based upon a consideration of all the evidence, not simply the parts the factfinder chooses to see and hear first-hand. Here, the PCR court's decision to take judicial notice of the substance of witnesses' testimony and then find those witnesses not credible diluted the process to the point where the PCR court's factual findings - and perhaps the legal conclusions arising from those factual findings - were based upon an incomplete consideration of all the evidence.” The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for a de novo PCR hearing. View "Goss v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to address the scope of consent given by a motorist to law enforcement for the search of his vehicle. After review of the circumstances of this case, the Court concluded that the consent given by Appellant Randy Valdivia to Pennsylvania State Police Troopers Jeremy Hoy and David Long to search his van did not extend to a canine search occurring approximately forty minutes later. "A reasonable person in Valdivia’s position would not have understood that he was consenting to such a search." The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Superior Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Valdivia" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to resolve inconsistencies between the Superior Court’s decisions in Commonwealth v. Kemp, 961 A.2d 1247 (Pa. Super. 2008) and Commonwealth v. Nguyen, 116 A.3d 657 (Pa. Super. 2015), specifically with regard to whether information obtained by a police officer during a lawful initial traffic stop may be used to justify re-engagement with the driver after the police officer indicates the driver is free to go, such that consent to search given during that re-engagement is valid. The Supreme Court concluded, under the circumstances of this case, the consent given was valid and suppression of evidence was not warranted. View "In the Int. of: A.A." on Justia Law