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People v. Trammel (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 21, 2023, No. A166756) 2023 WL 8060573, at *1

Summary: Trammel challenged the trial court’s sentence of an aggregate 12-year prison term for numerous convictions arising out of his violent relationship with his former girlfriend. The Court of Appeal agreed with Trammel that the trial court erroneously failed to stay the punishment for two convictions pursuant to Penal Code section 654 and remanded the matter for a full resentencing. (People v. Trammel (June 30, 2022, A161381) 2022 WL 2353314 [nonpub. opn.].

On remand, the trial court corrected its section 654 errors, resentencing Trammel to a total prison term of 12 years, four months. In this second appeal, Trammel argues that his new sentence violates the  prohibition against double jeopardy set forth in Article I, section 13 of the California Constitution. The Court of Appeal agreed and remanded to correct this error and an  error with respect to custody credits.

Zepeda v. Superior Court of City and County of San Francisco (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 13, 2023, No. A166159) 2023 WL 7484868, at *1

 Summary: This case decided several issues about  Senate Bill No. 567. Senate Bill 567 amended Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (b)(2) to provide that, when a statute specifies three possible terms of imprisonment, the trial court cannot impose a sentence exceeding the middle term unless it finds that a longer sentence is justified by “circumstances in aggravation of the crime” and “the facts underlying those circumstances” have been stipulated to by the defendant or have been found true beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury at trial. Before Senate Bill 567, under the sentencing scheme in place since 2007, trial judges had the discretion to impose the lower, middle, or upper term of imprisonment based on their own assessment of which term best served the interests of justice, without making any factual findings.


Boitez v. Superior Court of Yolo County (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 7, 2023, No. C098102) 2023 WL 7313899, at *1

Summary: Boitez filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during a search of his mother’s car. After the trial court denied his motion, petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate or prohibition.

The issue is whether defendant gave voluntary consent for the police to search his mother’s car after he was pulled over for a traffic violation. Here, the police officer falsely, but apparently with subjective belief that it was true, stated that he had the authority to tow defendant’s mother’s car, but would not do so if defendant consented to the search. Did  the police officer’s false promise of leniency as to the towing of defendant’s mother’s car, the prosecution met its burden by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant’s consent was uncoerced? (Vazquez, supra, 724 F.3d at p. 18.)

People v. Molina (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 17, 2023, No. G061280) 2023 WL 6834852

 Summary: Molina appealed after conviction of sexual penetration with a child 10 years or younger and lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14 years, after a trial in which safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic were implemented.

The Court of Appeal held that: defendant’s right to a fair trial was not violated by use of face masks during trial; defendant’s right to a fair trial was not violated by jurors’ social distancing during trial; and defense counsel’s tactical decision to inform prospective jurors that defendant was in custody did not constitute ineffective assistance.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. VERNON LEE HAMPTON, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 25, 2023, No. A165957) 2023 WL 7009789, at *1

Summary: Before closing arguments, which took place in January 2022, the trial judge dismissed two jurors for reasons related to COVID-19 and seated the two remaining alternate jurors. After the jury began deliberating, the judge had a personal emergency, and another judge took her place. Then, one of the remaining jurors tested positive for COVID, and Hampton moved for a mistrial, contending that the original judge had made an off-the-record ruling prohibiting any remote deliberations. After consulting with the original judge, the substitute judge denied a mistrial. The substitute judge then permitted the juror who had COVID to deliberate remotely for one day, at the end of which the jury returned its verdicts. The foreperson stated that the jury reached agreement on the verdicts while all the jurors were present in person, and that during the remote deliberations the jury discussed only the lesser weapon enhancements on which it hung.

On appeal, Hampton contends that (1) the substitute judge improperly relied on ex parte communications with the original judge in denying a mistrial and (2) the jury deliberations in which one juror participated remotely were unauthorized and unconstitutional. He contends that these errors are structural, meaning they are reversible without a showing of prejudice. The Court of Appeal concluded that the judges’ communications were ethical and did not deny Hampton a fair trial. Any error in permitting the jury to deliberate remotely for one day was harmless because, as the record establishes, that day of deliberation did not result in a finding of guilt. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment.

People v. Manzo (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 17, 2023, No. E079991) 2023 WL 6826849, at *1

 Summary:The Riverside County District Attorney appealed the trial court’s dismissal of three felony charges against Manzo due to evidence lost during the prosecution’s five-year delay in prosecuting the case after filing charges against defendant. Because there is no evidence that the loss of evidence prejudiced defendant, the Court of Appeal the order dismissing the complaint.

Facts: After Manzo completed a five year prison sentence in a San Bernardino robbery case, he was arrested and arraigned on outstanding charges in Riverside County in April 2022. Manzo moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that the delay in prosecuting him violated his due process rights under article I, section 15 of the California Constitution. Manzo claimed that the delay between the filing of charges against him and his arraignment prejudiced him for several reasons, including loss of the video footage of his arrest from the officer’s dashcam. The District Attorney’s argued that Manzo  suffered no actual prejudice from the delay.

People v. Simmons (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 12, 2023, No. 2D CRIM. B309921) 2023 WL 6631578, at *1

Summary: The Racial Justice Act (RJA) aims to eliminate racism from criminal trials in California. The Court of Appeal held that  the RJA does not violate article VI, section 13 of the California Constitution. The dissent argued  that the RJA violates article VI because section 13 states that it is the province of the court to decide whether an error results in a miscarriage of justice.

Simmons appealed his conviction, by jury, of the attempted willful, premeditated, and deliberate murder of Danny Graves (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 664)1 and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly. (Veh. Code, § 2800.2.) The jury further found he personally used a handgun in committing the attempted murder. (§ 12022.53, subds. (b), (c).) The trial court sentenced appellant to life in prison plus a 20-year enhancement term for the firearm use and a concurrent term of 27 months on the evading conviction.

Parris J. v. Christopher U. (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 4, 2023, No.

B313470) 2023 WL 6458520, at *1Summary: Christopher U. appeals from the five-year domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) issued against him at the request of his former spouse, Parris J. Christopher contends the trial court abused its discretion by granting Parris’s request for a DVRO because the record does not demonstrate he engaged in conduct rising to the level of abuse under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), Family Code section 6200 et seq. He appealed the order of the trial court to change the beneficiary of the $4 million insurance policy he owns on Parris’s life from himself to a charity of her choice. He also appealed the denial of  his requests for a statement of decision. Christopher claimed  that because the DVRO must be reversed, the trial court’s order awarding $200,000 in attorneys’ fees to Parris as the prevailing party under section 6344 must also be reversed.

The Court of Appeals concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting Parris’s request for a DVRO. The Court rejected Christopher’s contentions regarding the life insurance policy. There was no reason to reverse the order awarding attorneys’ fees to Parris. It concluded that reversal is not required based on the denial of Christopher’s requests for a statement of decision.

People v. Esparza (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 28, 2023, No. D080703) 2023 WL 6224964, as modified (Sept. 26, 2023)

Summary: Esparza was pulled over for a Vehicle Code violation, a detective who specializes in gang enforcement recognized him and two of his passengers as gang members.  The detective thought one of the passengers was likely to be armed and told the other officers they needed to search him. After the search of the passenger disclosed a loaded gun. The officers then searched Esparza and found another loaded weapon.

Esparza contests the constitutional validity of his detention and search, claiming (1) the officers lacked reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous when they conducted his patdown, and (2) his detention was unreasonably prolonged because it lasted longer than necessary for the officers to issue him a citation for the Vehicle Code violation.  The Court of Appeal noted that the detention lasted only seven minutes, during which the officers acted consistent with reasonable concerns for officer safety. The totality of the circumstances known to the initial investigating officer justified those concerns. The Court affirmed.

People v. Suazo (Cal. Ct. Appl., Sept. 19, 2023, No. F082140) 2023 WL 6118736, at *1

Summary: Suazo while having an elevated blood-alcohol level, drove his 2008 Ford Focus at a high rate of speed off the highway, through a fence, and into agricultural equipment parked in an adjacent yard. His passenger was ejected from the vehicle and killed. Suazo was convicted of second degree murder; gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; driving under the influence and causing bodily injury; driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more and causing bodily injury; leaving the scene of an accident; and driving on a suspended license.  The jury found defendant fled the scene of the crime. (Veh. Code, § 20001, subd. (c)).

On appeal, Suazo contends the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of second degree murder in light of his testimony that he drank alcohol without intending to drive afterward, then drove while unconscious. He also contends the trial court erred in failing to give, or his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request, instructions on unconsciousness and voluntary intoxication with regard to count and the fleeing-the-scene allegation.

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