3-Strikes disqualifier must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt

December 28, 2017 Comments off

3-Strikes disqualifier must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt

The Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (the “Reform Act” or the “Act”), amended the Three Strikes sentencing scheme. The Act reduced the class of defendants who are eligible for indeterminate prison terms following a third felony conviction. It also permitted some inmates serving a Three Strikes term to petition for modification of their current sentences. The Act excluded resentencing under certain circumstances. The People acknowledge that they bear the burden of establishing that a petitioner is ineligible for resentencing. The question here is what degree of proof is required to discharge that burden. We hold that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required.

People v. Frierson




Jury shouldn’t be told about conviction on another charged count, but should be instruction about segmented trials

December 28, 2017 Comments off

Jury shouldn’t be told about conviction on another charged count, but should be instruction about segmented trials

In this case, we decide whether during a retrial of a second degree murder charge, after a previous jury failed to reach a verdict on that charge but convicted the defendant of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (along with other offenses), the new jury should be informed of the specific convictions that resulted from the previous jury’s deliberations. We conclude that the trial court errs if it informs the new jury of such specific convictions. The trial court does not err, however, if pursuant to Penal Code sections 1093 and 1127, it instructs the retrial jury along the following lines: “Sometimes cases are tried in segments. The only question in this segment of the proceedings is whether the prosecution has proved the charge of murder. In deciding this question, you must not let the issue of punishment enter into your deliberations. Nor are you to speculate about whether the defendant may have been, or may be, held criminally responsible for his conduct in some other segment of the proceedings.” The foregoing instruction, which need only be given upon request, would prevent the jury from wrongly assuming that an acquittal on the murder charge would result in the defendant escaping criminal liability altogether, and it would do so without introducing matters that are extraneous to the retrial.
Here, defense counsel requested a specific instruction informing the retrial jury of defendant’s gross vehicular manslaughter conviction, and the trial court refused such an instruction, stating that it was “going to preclude any reference to the prior trial, or the prior verdict.” In light of the court’s broad statement, the defense cannot be faulted for failing to request an instruction like the one we approve today. Therefore, we must consider the question of prejudice. We conclude that the failure of the trial court to give the instruction we approve today was not prejudicial, and we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

People v. Hicks



No new cases Monday

December 22, 2017 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes will issue no new cases Monday.

Judge can’t find facts to qualify a prior as a strike unless jury found those facts

December 21, 2017 Comments off

Judge can’t find facts to qualify a prior as a strike unless jury found those facts

Defendant Sulma Marilyn Gallardo was convicted of various offenses including second degree robbery and transportation of a controlled substance. Although her offenses would ordinarily be punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of six years, the prosecution sought an increased sentence on the ground that defendant had previously been convicted of a “serious felony” under Penal Code section 667, subdivision (a), that was also a strike for purposes of the “Three Strikes” law. The conviction in question was for a crime—assault with a deadly weapon or with force likely to produce great bodily injury, in violation of Penal Code former section 245, subdivision (a)—whose statutory definition sweeps more broadly than the definition of “serious felony”: An assault conviction qualifies as a serious felony if the assault was committed with a deadly weapon, but not otherwise. After reviewing the transcript of the preliminary hearing in defendant’s assault case, the trial court determined that defendant did,
in fact, commit the assault with a deadly weapon, and sentenced defendant to a term of 11 years in prison.
Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted in Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466, 490 (Apprendi), any fact, other than the fact of a prior conviction, that increases the statutorily authorized penalty for a crime must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant contends that her increased sentence rests on an exercise in judicial factfinding that violated her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.
We considered a similar issue more than a decade ago, in People v. McGee (2006) 38 Cal.4th 682 (McGee). In McGee, we held that the Sixth Amendment permits courts to review the record of a defendant’s prior conviction to determine whether the crime qualifies as a serious felony for purposes of the sentencing laws. Although we made clear that the inquiry is a “limited one” that “focus[es] on the elements of the offense of which the defendant was convicted,” we also said that a court may review the record to determine whether “the conviction realistically may have been based on conduct that would not constitute a serious felony under California law.” (Id. at p. 706.) We acknowledged, however, that continued examination of the scope of the rule announced in Apprendi—then still a relatively recent development in the high court’s jurisprudence—might one day call for reconsideration of this approach. (Id. at p. 686.)
Defendant argues that day has now arrived. Specifically, she contends that the approach approved in McGee should be reconsidered in light of the high court’s recent decisions in Descamps v. United States (2013) 570 U.S. ___ [133 S.Ct. 2276] (Descamps) and Mathis v. United States (2016) 579 U.S. ___ [136 S.Ct. 2243] (Mathis), which, in her view, make clear that the Sixth Amendment forbids a sentencing court from reviewing preliminary hearing testimony to determine what conduct likely (or “realistically”) supported the defendant’s conviction.
We agree that it is time to reconsider McGee. Although the holdings of Descamps and Mathis both concern the proper interpretation of a federal statute not at issue here, their discussions of background Sixth Amendment principles pointedly reveal the limits of a judge’s authority to make the findings necessary to characterize a prior conviction as a serious felony. The cases make clear that when the criminal law imposes added punishment based on findings about the facts underlying a defendant’s prior conviction, “[t]he Sixth Amendment contemplates that a jury—not a sentencing court—will find such facts, unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt.” (Descamps, supra, 133 S.Ct. at p. 2288.) While a sentencing court is permitted to identify those facts that were already necessarily found by a prior jury in rendering a guilty verdict or admitted by the defendant in entering a guilty plea, the court may not rely on its own independent review of record evidence to determine what conduct “realistically” led to the defendant’s conviction. Here, the trial court violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial when it found a disputed fact about the conduct underlying defendant’s assault conviction that had not been established by virtue of the conviction itself. We disapprove People v. McGee, supra, 38 Cal.4th 682, insofar as it suggests that the trial court’s factfinding was constitutionally permissible.

People v. Gallardo



Coming tomorrow

December 20, 2017 Comments off

Coming tomorrow from the Cal. Supremes
S231260 (B257357; Los Angeles County Superior Court – VA126705-01)
Argued in San Francisco 10-02-17

The court limited review to the following issue: Was the trial court’s decision that defendant’s prior conviction constituted a strike incompatible with Descamps v. U.S. (2013) 570 U.S. __ (133 S.Ct. 2276) because the trial court relied on judicial fact-finding beyond the elements of the actual prior conviction?

No new criminal cases Monday

December 15, 2017 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes will issue no new criminal cases Monday.

No new cases tomorrow

December 13, 2017 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes will issue no new cases tomorrow.