Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder and found true a gang enhancement and a firearm use enhancement. The court found true a prior serious felony allegation and a strike allegation and sentenced defendant to 25-years-to-life for the murder, doubled due to the strike, 25-years-to-life for the firearm enhancement, and five years for the prior serious felony. The Supreme Court remanded for consideration in light of an amendment to Penal Code section 12022.53(h), which took effect on January 1, 2018, giving trial courts the discretion to strike firearm enhancements imposed under section 12022.53. The court of appeal again affirmed Defendant’s conviction and remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion under section 12022.53(h). On remand, the court called the case “for hearing on remittitur.” The prosecutor was not present, nor were Defendant or defense counsel. The court issued a “Statement of Discretion Resulting in No Change to Defendant’s Sentence.” The court of appeal reversed. Defendant should have had the opportunity to be present with counsel at a hearing on remand and the trial court should have an opportunity to exercise its discretion to dismiss his five-year prior serious felony enhancement under recent revisions to Penal Code sections 667 and 1385. View "People v. Rocha" on Justia Law

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Bueno was driving while intoxicated and lost control of her vehicle resulting in a single vehicle roll-over accident. Bueno’s eight-year-old son was ejected from the vehicle and died; her teenage daughter was injured and required medical attention. Bueno pled no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more causing injury, and two counts of felony child endangerment for endangering her son and daughter. Bueno admitted great bodily injury allegations to counts 2 through 4 and multiple victim allegations and .15% or higher blood alcohol content allegations as to counts 2 and 3. She was sentenced to a determinate prison term of 11 years, four months. The court of appeal reversed and remanded. Bueno never waived her right to be sentenced by the judge who took her plea as required under People v. Arbuckle. On the plea agreement, Bueno placed an “X,” rather than her initials, in the space provided next to the Arbuckle Waiver. No discussion of that waiver was raised during the oral pronouncement of her plea. View "People v. Bueno" on Justia Law

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In San Francisco County, a male took a woman’s cellphone from her hand and passed it to Minor. Police apprehended Minor and found the phone in his pocket. Minor admitted to misdemeanor receiving stolen property. Weeks later, in Alameda County, Minor and another robbed two “kids,” using a pellet “replica” gun. Minor was apprehended and confessed. A search of Minor’s cellphone revealed an email receipt for a “Semi-Auto BB Air Pistol.” Minor admitted to attempted second-degree robbery. Both cases were transferred to Contra Costa County (Minor’s residence).. In Contra Costa County, two males took a victim’s cellphone at gunpoint. After Minor was arrested for the Alameda County robbery, he confessed to the Contra Costa robbery—he had the cellphone in his possession. A juvenile wardship petition alleged Minor committed second-degree robbery and personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon. The juvenile court denied Minor’s motion to suppress his statements and sustained the allegations. The court of appeal affirmed the order that adjudged Minor a ward, removed him from parental custody, and committed him to a county institution, rejecting a claim that Minor did not understand his Miranda warnings. Committing Minor to juvenile hall until age 21, while providing for an earlier release if Minor successfully completed a court-designated treatment program, did not impermissibly delegate judicial authority to the probation department to determine the length of the commitment. View "In re L.R." on Justia Law

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Defendant Cornelius Jones appealed his conviction of attempted premeditated murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault likely to produce great bodily injury. He argued on appeal: (1) the trial court erred by ruling the prosecution did not unconstitutionally excuse the sole potential African-American juror on the basis of race; (2) insufficient evidence supported the jury s finding he attempted to kill willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation; (3) the court imposed an unauthorized sentence; and (4) the court committed other sentencing and clerical errors. The California Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeal to vacate our earlier opinion in this matter and reconsider the cause in light of Senate Bill No. 1393 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1013) (SB 1393). Thus, defendant also contended: (5) the Court of Appeal should remand to allow the trial court to exercise its new discretion under SB 1393 to strike two five-year enhancements imposed for a serious felony prior. Except to remand to correct the sentencing and clerical errors, but not to reconsider the felony prior enhancements, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal modified the opinion and held that section 1170.95 petition procedure is the avenue by which defendants with nonfinal sentences of the type specified in section 1170.95, subdivision (a) must pursue relief, the court was cognizant of the possibility that some defendants may believe themselves able to present a particularly strong case for relief under the changes worked by Senate Bill 1437 and wish to seek that relief immediately rather than await the full exhaustion of their rights to directly appeal their conviction. The court also held that a Court of Appeal presented with such a stay request and convinced it is supported by good cause can order the pending appeal stayed with a limited remand to the trial court for the sole purpose of permitting the trial court to rule on a petition under section 1170.95. View "People v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Defendant pleaded no contest to driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent (Veh. Code, 10851(a)) and admitted having a prior conviction for the same offense (Penal Code, 666.5(a)). The trial court sentenced Defendant to jail, suspended execution, and placed him on mandatory supervision. In 2018, Defendant again pleaded no contest to driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and misdemeanor resisting an officer and admitted that he had a prior conviction for the same offense and had served a prior term (Penal Code 667.5(b)). Defendant was found in violation of his mandatory supervision in the earlier case. At a combined sentencing hearing, the trial court revoked and terminated mandatory supervision in the earlier case. In the 2018 case, the court sentenced Defendant to two years in jail and three years on mandatory supervision and granted 72 days of custody credits. The court of appeal dismissed an appeal. Defendant’s claim that the trial court should have awarded 164 days of custody credits is not reviewable on appeal because it falls within the scope of his appellate waiver in his written plea agreement; he failed to obtain a certificate of probable cause to challenge the enforceability of the waiver. View "People v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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An order made after judgment affecting a defendant’s substantial rights is appealable. However, once a judgment is rendered, except for limited statutory exceptions, the sentencing court is without jurisdiction to vacate or modify the sentence, except pursuant to the provisions of section 1170 (d). Defendant’s motion for resentencing was not based on the trial court’s limited authority to resentence under section 1170(d). Instead, defendant argued he was entitled to resentencing under the recently enacted Senate Bill No. 620. Having concluded defendant has appealed from a nonappealable order, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. View "California v. Fuimaono" on Justia Law

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After months of investigation by police, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, Peter Johnson and Ian Patrick Guthrie were arrested and eventually charged with murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm for the shooting death of Lamar Canady in 2014. The investigation into Canady's death revealed Johnson and Guthrie were participants in a conspiracy to kill Canady led by drug kingpin Omar Grant, who ordered a hit on Canady, executed by Johnson with help from Guthrie and other uncharged coconspirators. After the trial, which was conducted jointly but with separate juries, Johnson and Guthrie were both convicted of first degree murder. Johnson's jury also found true the allegation that Johnson personally discharged a firearm resulting in Canady's death. Johnson and Guthrie appeal their convictions on various grounds; the Court of Appeal concluded these claims lacked merit and affirmed both men's convictions. However, while the appeal was pending, the Court granted Johnson's motion to file a supplemental brief to explain the impact of the newly enacted Penal Code section 12022.53(h) on his sentence. The Attorney General conceded the change in law applied to Johnson, but argued the record showed the trial court would not have struck the firearm enhancement even if it had had discretion to do so. Although the Court of Appeal agreed there was some support in the record for the State's position, section 12022.53(h) was not effective when the trial court sentenced Johnson and the court lacked the discretion to strike the firearm enhancement. After the Court of Appeal issued its opinion, the California Supreme Court accepted certiorari review of Guthrie's case, and denied Johnson. The Court mandated the appellate court review its decision in light of the recently enacted Senate Bill 1393 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1013). As with the changes in 2018 to section 12022.53, the Attorney General conceded the law applied retroactively to Guthrie's case, but argued remand was futile because the record was clear that the trial court would not have struck the enhancement had it had discretion to do so. Although the trial court indicated it would not strike the serious prior felony enhancement even if it had the discretion to do so, Guthrie did not have the opportunity to address the question. Therefore, "out of an abundance of caution," the Court of Appeal remanded the matter for the limited purpose of allowing the trial court to consider whether to strike the firearm sentencing enhancement imposed on Johnson and to consider whether to strike the serious prior felony enhancement imposed on Guthrie. View "California v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded no contest to making threats to use a weapon of mass destruction and making criminal threats, defendant was placed on supervised probation and ordered to pay $235,341.17 as restitution to the school district. The Court of Appeal reversed the order of restitution and held that the trial court should reduce the amount of restitution to the school district by the amount of reimbursement the school district received from the state for average daily attendance (ADA) funds. On remand, the trial court shall order defendant to pay restitution to the state in the amount of the reimbursement the state paid the school district. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "People v. Landen" on Justia Law

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In 1992, Victor Lee Ellis was sentenced to prison for seven years and was accessed a fine under Penal Code section 1202.4, which qualified for garnishment under section 2085.5(a). In 1999, Ellis finished serving his prison sentence. Ellis returned to prison in 2011. Under section 2085.5 (a), the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation resumed deducting a portion of Ellis's prison wages based on the fine arising out of his 1992 crime. Ellis argued maintains the CDCR did not have authority to garnish his prison wages under section 2085.5(a) because he was no longer in custody for the 1992 crime. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that if Ellis still owed a portion of a qualifying fine and was an inmate in a California prison, the CDCR could deduct a portion of his prison wages. Therefore, the superior court did not err in denying Ellis' motion to vacate restitution. View "California v. Ellis" on Justia Law