caclr_header_template1 California Criminal Law Reporter

Recent Defense Victories

Minor was in custody for Miranda purposes when armed officers questioned him at his house at 6:00 a.m. following a shooting. (452)
Even though police told the minor he was not under arrest, they knew at the time of the questioning that he was a suspect in the shooting. Five officers came to this house early in the morning, and at least two wore police vests and were armed during the questioning. The minor was never told he was free to leave and it would not have been reasonable to assume he was. He was in custody for Miranda purposes and the police erred in failing to provide the warnings. The violation was prejudicial as he would have had a legitimate self-defense claim absent the Miranda-violative statements.
In re Matthew W. ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 7029 (4th Dist. 2021) July 08, 2021 (A159931)
The jury’s unanimous rejection of the special circumstance allegation establishes the defendant’s entitlement to relief under section 1170.95 as a matter of law. (147)
A jury’s not true finding on a felony-murder special circumstance allegation constitutes a prior finding by a jury that the petitioner did not act with reckless indifference to human life or was not a major participant in the underlying felony, thus triggering the superior court’s duty to vacate the murder conviction and resentence the defendant under Penal Code section 1170.95 as a matter of law.
People v. Clayton ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 6800 (2nd Dist. 2021) July 02, 2021 (B308524)
Instruction on the kill zone theory that predated Canizales was erroneous. (178)
Defendants’ attempted murder convictions were based on the “kill zone” theory. However, the convictions were reversed because the court did not have the benefit of People v. Canizales (2019) 7 Cal.5th 591 at the time it instructed on the theory, and did not explain the prosecution’s burden to prove that the “only” reasonable conclusion from the defendant’s use of lethal force was that they intended to create a kill zone. Defendants could be retried on that theory with proper instructions.
People v. Dominguez ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 6882 (4th Dist. 2021) July 02, 2021 (D076896)
Evidence of provocation was sufficient for an instruction on heat of passion voluntary manslaughter where the victims were gang members who lunged at the defendants after asking where they were from. (178)
Defendants were part of a neighborhood tagging crew. They were convicted of one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder as they fired shots at the four victims. The victims were gang members who approached the defendants and said “Where the fuck you from? ... This is Eastside,” and then lunged at them. The trial court erred in refusing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter based on heat of passion as the victims’ statements constituted adequate provocation to support the instruction.
People v. Dominguez ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 6882 (4th Dist. 2021) July 02, 2021 (D076896)
Predicate offenses under the gang enhancement statute cannot be proven solely by the testimony of a gang expert. (182)
The Penal Code section 186.22 (b) gang enhancement requires proof that the gang’s members have been engaged in a pattern of criminal activity. These crimes, known as “predicate offenses” must be proven by independently admissible evidence, and may not be established solely by the testimony of an expert who has no personal knowledge of facts otherwise necessary to satisfy the prosecution’s burden.
People v. Valencia ____ Cal.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 6755 (2021) June 28, 2021 (S250670)
Defendant was entitled to application of SB 136 to strike his prison prior where the execution of his sentence had been suspended but the court could also withdraw its approval of the plea. (851)
The trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to strike his one-year prior prison term enhancement under SB 136. His case was not yet final because the judgment had been imposed by the court suspended execution of the sentence. The case was remanded to allow the court the opportunity to approve of the plea in light of the new law.
People v. Ruggerio ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2021 D.A.R 6519 (2nd Dist. 2021) June 21, 2021 (B305665)