Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In December 2002, defendant Leonard Warmington worked a courtesy clerk at a Redding Walmart. He stole a television from the store, returned it for a $746.46 Walmart gift card, and used the card to purchase various items. Confronted by a police officer, defendant admitted stealing other items from the Walmart, including a recliner chair. Defendant was ordered to return the items he stole. The value of the items stolen by defendant and subsequently returned was $851. Defendant pleaded no contest to embezzlement in October 2003 and was placed on three years’ formal probation in November 2003. In February 2016, defendant filed a Penal Code section 1170.18 petition to redesignate his offense as a misdemeanor. The trial court denied the petition without prejudice to filing a new petition, on the ground that defendant’s crime was not eligible for relief. Defendant appealed, arguing the trial court erred in finding his crime was not subject to section 1170.18 relief. Since the record clearly shows defendant embezzled less than $950 from Walmart and he was not otherwise disqualified, his crime was eligible for section 1170.18 relief, and the trial court was required to “designate the felony offense . . . as a misdemeanor.” View "California v. Warmington" on Justia Law

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T.F., then a 13-year-old special education student, was accused of possessing a weapon on school grounds (Penal Code 626.10(a)) and committing a lewd act on a child under age 14 (Penal Code 288(a)). Before and during his wardship proceeding under Welfare and Institutions Code 602, T.F’s defense counsel moved to exclude inculpatory statements he made to the police. The court suppressed the pre-Miranda statements T.F. made when questioned at his school, but admitted the post-Miranda statements he made at the police station. The court sustained the petition, finding true the allegation that T.F. had touched the victim’s vagina when she was three years old. T.F., then 16 years old, was declared a ward of the court and placed on probation in his mother’s home. The court of appeal reversed, finding that T.F.’s statements were made in violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. T.F.’s Miranda admonition was “rapidly rattled” off without taking time to determine whether T.F. understood, after T.F. had already undergone a nearly hour-long interrogation by two detectives while confined in a school conference room, which culminated in his arrest. T.F. was sobbing and clearly distraught at school and remained so during the subsequent interrogation. View "In re T.F." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three Laotian correctional officers, filed suit against the County pursuant to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900 et seq., while simultaneously pursuing their workers' compensation remedies. Administrative law judges denied plaintiffs' claims in separate workers' compensation proceedings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the County, holding that res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims. The court reasoned that, while workers' compensation was not plaintiffs' exclusive remedy, once they elected to pursue that remedy to a final, adverse judgment instead of insisting on the primacy of their rights under the FEHA, the WCAB became the exclusive forum to recover for their injuries. View "Ly v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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Christopher Drew petitioned under Penal Code section 1170.126 to recall a sentence pursuant to the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012. The trial court denied the petition because it was untimely and the court found Drew failed to show good cause to excuse the delay. In this case, the delay was lengthy and the reason for Drew's inactivity was unexplained except by the absence of a lawyer proactively advising him regarding his rights and remedies. Therefore, the Court of Appeal could not conclude it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to find that Drew did not show "good cause" for his late-filed recall petition. View "California v. Drew" on Justia Law

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Garcia was dating Delgadillo’s ex-wife when Delgadillo’s daughter suffered bruises and complained that Garcia had hit her. Delgadillo called the police. Three weeks later, as Delgadillo was watching football with Lanford, Lanford questioned Delgadillo about calling the police and invited him out to smoke. Outside, Delgadillo saw Garcia, Pettie, and another man. Someone called Delgadillo a “cop caller” and Delgadillo was attacked. Delgadillo saw Garcia point a pistol at him, but otherwise did not specifically identify which men personally participated in the attack. After suffering injuries, Delgadillo ran away. He heard gunshots as he fled. Garcia, Lanford and Pettie were convicted of attempted murder, assault, and witness dissuasion, with gang and firearm enhancements. The court of appeal reversed, first rejecting claims of failure to bifurcate, Brady violation, juror bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and insufficient evidence, including a claim of insufficient evidence that the defendants belonged to a unitary gang. Defendants’ claim that the admission of testimonial hearsay through the prosecution’s gang expert violated their confrontation rights required reversal of the findings on gang enhancements; did not require reversal of the Garcia and Lanford convictions for attempted murder and assault; required reversal on all counts as to Pettie. The court also failed its sua sponte duty to give the “mere presence” portion of CALCRIM No. 401 with respect to Pettie’s role in aiding and abetting and failed to instruct the jury on the requisite mens rea for witness dissuasion View "People v. Pettie" on Justia Law

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Defendant Demetrius Mays and several of his relatives went with Charles Williams to confront Marcel Hatch, who had previously beaten Williams. When the group arrived, Williams shot and killed Hatch. A jury convicted defendant of voluntary manslaughter, with an enhancement that a principal was armed, and the trial court sentenced him to 12 years in state prison. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court improperly ordered him to pay restitution to the estate of the victim’s mother for the victim’s funeral and burial expenses paid by the mother before her death. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluded the restitution order was proper because (1) the victim’s mother was, herself, a victim under the restitution statute and (2) the funeral and burial expenses were incurred before she died. View "California v. Mays" on Justia Law

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The plain language of the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, applies to a petition to enforce a no contest clause. In this case, a beneficiary filed a petition for instructions as to whether the no contest clause of his mother's trust had been violated after his sister sought to reform the trust to eliminate his interest. The sister, as trustee, filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the petition. The trial court granted the motion to strike and awarded attorney fees to the sister. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the anti-SLAPP motion should have been denied because the beneficiary established a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits. Therefore, the order granting attorney fees was also reversed. View "Urick v. Urick" on Justia Law

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Defendant Nan Hui Jo was convicted by jury of child custody deprivation, for which she was sentenced to 175 days in county jail and thirty-six months probation. She appealed, raising nine alleged evidentiary and procedural errors that occurred at trial, all of which she contends entitle her to a reversal of her conviction. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded defendant’s first and second arguments had merit, but the errors were harmless. View "California v. Jo" on Justia Law

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Defendant Edward Thomas molested his daughter for 10 years, beginning when she was four or five years old. He admitted his conduct in a telephone call with his daughter and in a letter to her mother. A jury convicted defendant on nine counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child. The trial court sentenced Thomas to a total indeterminate sentence of 135 years to life. On appeal, defendant argued that there was no substantial evidence that he committed his crimes by means of force, fear, menace, or duress. Furthermore, he argued his counsel’s failure to object to the detective’s testimony about the timeline of one instance of assault constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, the Court of Appeal held that substantial evidence supported a finding of aggravated sexual crimes because of defendant’s ongoing physical violence against the victim. Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed on the merits. View "California v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Darren Williams sought relief from the superior court’s order denying his Penal Code section 9951 motion to dismiss an indictment issued by a grand jury charging him with a series of cell phone store robberies. Petitioner moved to dismiss the indictment on the basis that the deputy district attorney’s excusal of a juror for hardship violated the grand jury’s independence and rendered it improperly constituted. The California Supreme Court was considering the related question of whether a prosecutor’s improper dismissal of a grand juror denied a defendant a “substantial right” in Avitia v. Superior Court (Apr. 18, 2017, C082859) [nonpub. opn.], review granted June 21, 2017, S242030.2 Petitioner also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the gang allegations and counts regarding a March 10, 2014, robbery. Pending further guidance from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal resolved this matter by concluding the superior court should have granted the motion to dismiss the indictment. “The deputy district attorney’s exercise of authority he did not have over the grand jury, in front of the grand jurors, was not harmless. It was a fundamental misunderstanding of the prosecutor’s role that damaged the structure of the grand jury process and the independence of the grand jury itself.” The Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate vacating the superior court’s order denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the indictment and directed the court to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Williams v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law