Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
Williams was lying on the sidewalk while his friends smoked and otherwise violated Santa Cruz Municipal Ordinances. Williams interfered and physically resisted officers when they attempted to issue citations. The officers used force. Williams was charged with delaying, obstructing, or resisting a police officer engaged in the lawful performance of his duties (Penal Code 148(a)(1)). During deliberations, the jury asked: “If a peace officer is correctly conducting duties ... If a 148(a)[(1)] violation occurs ... If then, subsequent to the violation, excessive force is used, does this invalidate the 148(a)[(1)] violation?” The court responded “NO.” The jury found Williams guilty. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the court did not err in responding to the jury question. If a defendant delays, obstructs, or resists a police officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of his duties, the defendant may be convicted of violating section 148(a)(1) even if the officer uses excessive force after the completed violation. The court rejected an argument that the jury was erroneously instructed that Williams could be convicted of violating section 148(a)(1) if it found that he stepped in front of an officer who was writing a citation because there was no evidence that Williams thereby delayed, obstructed, or resisted the officer. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
Rudolfo Nuno hit a person with his car, causing serious injuries. He drove a few blocks away and called 911 to report the incident. He was later charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, making a criminal threat, and felony hit-and-run. The jury convicted him only of hit-and-run and acquitted him of the remaining charges. The court sentenced him to a middle term of two years after finding him presumptively ineligible for probation under Penal Code section 1203 (e)(2) as a person "who used or attempted to use a deadly weapon upon a human being in connection with the perpetration of the crime of which he . . . has been convicted." Nuno argued on appeal the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support hit-and-run because he called for assistance soon after the incident. He also claimed the trial court erred at sentencing in finding him presumptively ineligible for probation and not finding this an "unusual case[]" entitling him to probation "in the interests of justice." While the Court of Appeal determined there was sufficient evidence to support Nuno’s conviction, it remanded for resentencing because the court erroneously believed Nuno to be presumptively ineligible for probation. View "California v. Nuno" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed his sentence after he pleaded guilty to several drug-related charges. On remand, in light of new Senate Bill No. 180, which amended the sentencing enhancements included in Health and Safety Code section 11370.2, the Court of Appeal vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court struck all of the section 11370.2, subdivision (c) enhancements. View "People v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

by
Pedro Rodriguez met Rebecca on an online dating application when he was 41 and she was 16 years old. Rodriguez arranged an in-person meeting with Rebecca a few weeks later and, on numerous occasions over the next several months, engaged in various sexual acts with her in hotel rooms he had rented. A jury convicted Rodriguez of 11 offenses involving unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, one count of burglary and one count of attempting to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime. Rodriguez contended on appeal there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction for burglary because Penal Code section 459 required an invasion of a possessory interest in the subject room or building and, much like the lessee of an apartment, he had an unconditional possessory interest in the hotel room he rented. He argued the trial court should have either dismissed the charge or provided the jury with a pinpoint instruction regarding the significance of any such possessory interest. To the extent the Court of Appeal concluded there was a relevant distinction between a possessory interest in the hotel room and a homeowner or lessee's possessory interest in a home or apartment, Rodriguez argued the result would be a violation of his constitutional right to equal protection. In addition, Rodriguez contended there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction for attempting to dissuade a witness pursuant to Penal Code section 136.1 (b)(1) because any attempt he made to dissuade Rebecca occurred only after she made an initial report to the police. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded there was sufficient evidence to support both of Rodriguez' convictions, the jury did not err in refusing to dismiss the burglary charge or its instruction to the jury concerning burglary, and that the equal protection clause was not applicable because individuals renting hotel rooms are not similarly situated to those owning or leasing a residence. View "California v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of evading a pursuing peace officer and being a felon in possession of ammunition. In the underlying action, the trial court denied defendant's motion to be resentenced under the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012, concluding that the People had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was armed with a firearm during the commission of the offenses in the targeted petition. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in determining that defendant was ineligible for resentencing. In this case, the jury's determination conclusively rejected the claim that defendant was armed with a firearm and that rejection foreclosed any later finding beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was armed with a firearm, either while evading the police or while in possession of live ammunition. Therefore, defendant was not ineligible for resentencing under the armed exception. The court remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to deny resentencing to a defendant who poses an unreasonable danger to the public. View "People v. Piper" on Justia Law

by
After a San Leandro party, seven people got into an SUV. A car blocked them. Within a minute, gunshots were fired into the SUV. Six victims were shot; three died. Witnesses identified Stevenson, Stewart, and Perry as shooters. After his arrest, Stewart admitted pulling the trigger three times, but claimed the gun did not fire but only “click[ed].” The three were charged with three counts of first-degree murder with multiple murder special circumstances and four counts of premediated attempted murder, with allegations that each defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death; that Stevenson was on bail at the time; and that Perry had served a prior prison term. The court of appeal affirmed their convictions, rejecting arguments that the trial court erred by instructing the jury it could convict defendants of first-degree murder under the natural and probable consequences theory and by failing sua sponte to instruct on assault with a firearm as a lesser included offense. The court upheld a jury instruction that the prosecution need not prove motive and that although the intent to kill a primary target does not transfer to a nontargeted survivor, the fact the person desires to kill a particular target does not preclude finding that the person also intended to kill others within the "kill zone." View "People v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted James Webb of first degree murder, and found true the special allegation of using a knife in the commission of the offense. On appeal, Webb argued the trial court had a sua sponte duty to instruct the jury on the defense of duress (CALCRIM No. 3402). He also claimed CALCRIM No. 548 erroneously instructed the jury it did not need to agree on the theory of murder when the two theories corresponded to different degrees. The Court of Appeal found after review of the record that "Webb repeatedly lied, kept changing his story, and could not paint a coherent picture linking any threats to his admitted conduct. ... even if some jury could believe he acted under duress, it is clear this jury didn't. Webb consistently denied carrying a knife or having anything to do with the actual killing. By finding that he had personally used a knife during the commission of the crime, the jury rejected his versions of events, including any possible theory of duress." Therefore, the Court determined the trial court did not have a duty to instruct the jury on the defense of duress. The Court also determined that to the extent CALCRIM No. 548 could be read to suggest unanimity was not required as to the degree of murder, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Remand was required solely for a restitution hearing, but in all other respects the Court affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Webb" on Justia Law

by
An invited guest, knowing his friend is asleep in the living room, gets into a bed where his friend's wife is asleep and digitally penetrates her vagina without her knowing consent but without her initial objection or resistance, has committed sexual penetration by artifice, pretense, or concealment in violation of Penal Code section 289, subdivision (f). In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that there was substantial evidence before the jury from which it could reasonably find defendant penetrated the victim by means of artifice, pretense, and concealment and there was no violation of defendant's due process rights. The court held that there was no error in the pattern jury instruction for an allegation of section 289, subdivision (f). The court affirmed defendant's conviction under section 289. View "People v. Fleming" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Bilbrey guilty of attempted murder, aggravated mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon, and battery with serious bodily injury and found true knife-use and great-bodily-injury enhancements. The trial court sentenced Bilbrey to an aggregate term of 11 years to life. The court of appeal affirmed in 2013. In 2016, the trial court granted Bilbrey’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, based upon the ineffectiveness of trial counsel, and ordered a new trial. The government filed a timely notice of appeal but did not seek to set a trial date, bring the case to trial, nor seek a stay of trial court proceedings. About four months later, Bilbrey moved to dismiss the information for violation of his speedy trial rights. The government argued its pending appeal deprived the trial court of jurisdiction to rule on that motion. The trial court dismissed. The court of appeal stayed the dismissal order pending resolution of the appeal from the habeas ruling; granted Bilbrey’s motion to expedite that appeal; and consolidated that appeal with the appeal from the dismissal. The court of appeal then affirmed the habeas corpus order and the order dismissing the case based on the violation of Bilbrey’s right to a speedy trial. View "People v. Bilbrey" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal reversed an order denying defendant's motion for resentencing under Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. The court held that defendant's conduct in committing an identity theft offense met the elements of shoplifting under Proposition 47 and her conviction should be reduced to a misdemeanor. In this case, defendant entered a department store and removed the price tags from two items for sale worth slightly over $100. Defendant then told store personnel she previously purchased the items and was returning them for a refund, using a stolen credit card to falsely identify herself. View "People v. Brayton" on Justia Law