caclr_header_template1 California Criminal Law Reporter

Recent Defense Victories

The trial court prejudicially erred by failing to instruct that robbery requires proof that the victim was in fear. (174)
Defendant was convicted of robbery. The trial court instructed with CALCRIM 1600, which does not specify whether the victim need actually subjectively be in fear or whether an objective reasonable person in the same circumstances would be in fear. The prosecutor argued the latter and said it didn’t matter if the victim was afraid. This was incorrect since robbery requires proof that the victim was in fear. The instructional error required reversal.
People v. Collins ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 5643 (2nd Dist. 2021) June 10, 2021 (B304853)
The trial court erred in approving a plea bargain for human trafficking of a minor where it was undisputed that the victim was an adult. (622)
Defendant pled guilty to one count of human trafficking of a minor for sex act under Penal Code section 236.1(c), but the victim was 26 years old. He later challenged the sentence imposed for that offense. He did not seek a certificate of probable cause to appeal, but the appeal was treated as a petition for writ of habeas corpus. The court was not estopped from reviewing the plea bargain reached by the parties because the plea deal should never have been offered by the prosecution or approved by the court where the parties knew the victim was an adult. The conviction was reversed and the matter was remanded with the initial charges reinstated.
People v. Richardson ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 5650 (1st Dist. 2021) June 10, 2021 (A157529)
Evidence did not support the gang expert’s conclusion that defendant carried the concealed knife to benefit or promote his gang. (852)
Defendant was a gang member walking with another gang member in the gang’s territory. He was stopped and found to be carrying a concealed knife which the state’s gang expert concluded was to benefit the gang. However, the evidence was not sufficient to support the imposition of the Penal Code section 186.22 (b) gang enhancement since the expert’s opinion was speculative and there were no facts showing the defendant carried the concealed knife in order to promote the gang.
People v. Soriano ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R. 5577 (4th Dist. 2021) June 08, 2021 (G058363)
Evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for molesting or annoying a child where the defendant with a history of child molest wrote frequent emails to a family friend. (170)
Defendant was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation in the 1980's and was surgically castrated in 2001 and released in 2007. In 2018, he was convicted of several counts of annoying or molesting minors and related offenses. The evidence was insufficient to support the conviction as to two counts of annoying or molesting Steven under Penal Code section 647.6. Defendant was a friend of Steven’s family and something of a “father figure” or “older brother” to the boy. The fact that he wrote Steven frequent emails did not satisfy section 647.6, and the prosecution was wrong in adding that defendant’s history could be considered.
People v. Clotfelter ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 5443 (1st Dist. 2021) June 02, 2021 (A155659)
The trial court erred in failing to instruct that mistake of fact as to the alleged victim’s age is a defense to human trafficking of a minor. (758)
Defendant was convicted of human trafficking of a minor in violation of Penal Code section 236.1 (c)(1). The case involved a human decoy rather than a minor. The trial court erred in failing to instruct that mistake of fact as to the age of the alleged victim was a defense to the charge, and that the offense requires a specific intent to target a minor.
People v. Moses ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R. 5460 (4th Dist. 2021) June 02, 2021 (G055561)
Trial court rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to inadmissible prejudicial testimony from psychiatric and CSAAS experts, and lay witnesses who described propensity evidence that exceeded the limits of section 1108. (622)
Defendant was convicted of multiple counts relating to the annoying or molesting of three children. Trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to inadmissible and prejudicial testimony in several respects. He failed to object to psychiatric testimony concluding that his “current criminal behavior” was consistent with his history of sexual offending. The expert improperly offered an opinion on guilt. Counsel also failed to object to the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) testimony that went beyond reporting and suggested the alleged victims were actually sexually molested. And finally, counsel failed to object to inflammatory propensity evidence that exceeded the boundaries of Evidence Code section 1108, and addressed the emotional impact on the victims that would have been appropriate at sentencing but not at trial. Counsel’s mistakes when considered together required reversal of all convictions.
People v. Clotfelter ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 5443 (1st Dist. 2021) June 02, 2021 (A155659)