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THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. OSCAR CUADRA, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 5, 2021, No. B310554) 2021 WL 5149775, at *1–3

Summary:  Cuadra was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of Penal Code section 29800, subdivision (a)(1).   Before pleading no contest, Cuadra  filed a motion to suppress the firearm evidence under Penal Code section 1538.5 as the fruit of an unlawful detention. On appeal Cuadra  argued that the trial court erred when it denied the motion.The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed.

Facts:

People v. Sands (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 12, 2021, No. A160973) 2021 WL 4739531, at *1–2

Summary: Sands was 24 years old when he committed a special circumstance murder (Pen. Code §§ 187, 190.2, subd. (a)(10)), and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He filed a motion in the superior court, seeking to develop a record of mitigating circumstances for an eventual youth offender parole hearing (see People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, 202 Cal.Rptr.3d 496, 370 P.3d 1053 (Franklin)). The trial court denied Sands’s motion, and he appeals. Having been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for a crime he committed after the age of 18, he is statutorily ineligible for a youth offender parole hearing (§ 3051, subd. (h)) but argues that the statutory exclusion violates his rights to equal protection.  The Court of Appeal  disagreed and affirmed.

Youth Offender Parole Hearings

People v. Fultz (Cal. Ct. App., Sept. 27, 2021, No. C088566) 2021 WL 4398649, at *1–2

Summary: Based on the government’s conduct throughout the investigation and trial, the trial court rejected the prosecution’s innocent explanations for the constitutional violations. The trial court then dismissed the case against Fultz finding there was no possibility he could receive a fair trial considering the nature of the evidence against him and the violations surrounding his accomplices’ pleas and interviews.

This People’s appeal concerns the gamesmanship the prosecutor can engage in during a criminal prosecution before that gamesmanship is so unconstitutional the pending murder charge against a defendant must be dismissed because no fair trial could possibly be held. The standard for dismissal is high. (United States v. Morrison (1981) 449 U.S. 361, 365, 101 S.Ct. 665, [66 L.Ed.2d 564, 568-569] [“Our approach has thus been to identify and then neutralize the taint by tailoring relief appropriate in the circumstances to assure the defendant the effective assistance of counsel and a fair trial. The premise of our prior cases is that the constitutional infringement identified has had or threatens some adverse effect upon the effectiveness of counsel’s representation or has produced some other prejudice to the defense. Absent such impact on the criminal proceeding, however, there is no basis for imposing a remedy [of dismissal] in that proceeding, which can go forward with full recognition of the defendant’s right to counsel and to a fair trial”].)

People v. Lewis (Cal., July 26, 2021, No. S260598) 2021 WL 3137434, at *1

Summary: The California Supreme Court reviewed Senate Bill No. 1437 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015; Senate Bill 1437) which eliminated natural and probable consequences liability for murder and limited the scope of the felony murder rule. (Pen. Code, §§ 188, subd. (a)(3), 189, subd. (e), as amended by Senate Bill 1437.) Senate Bill 1437 also added section 1170.95 to the Penal Code,1 which creates a procedure for convicted murderers who could not be convicted under the law as amended to retroactively seek relief.

In this case, the court decided two issues.

In re Palmer (2021) 10 Cal.5th 959

Summary: The California Supreme Court  held that prisoners may challenge their continued incarceration as constitutionally excessive when the Board repeatedly denies parole. The Court had granted review in the case of Palmer who in 1988, was 17 years old when he pleaded guilty to kidnapping for robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, consecutive to a two-year term for use of a firearm.

Palmer was eligible for parole in 1995 but was repeatedly denied parole by the Board. Following his 10th denial, Palmer filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Palmer alleged that the 30 years he had already served on a life sentence for an aggravated kidnapping committed when he was a juvenile was constitutionally excessive. Before the Court of Appeal could adjudicate the habeas petition, the Board found him suitable for parole and ordered him released. The California Supreme Court agree with Court of Appeal that habeas corpus relief is available to inmates whose continued incarceration has become constitutionally excessive, but who have been denied release by the Board.

People v. Escareno (Cal. Ct. App., May 24, 2021, No. A160209) 2021 WL 2069434, at *1–4

Summary: Escareno pleaded no contest to two felonies, four misdemeanors and an infraction arising from a single incident of driving under the influence of alcohol and without a valid license. The  trial court refused  to dismiss the misdemeanor and infraction counts pursuant to Vehicle Code section 41500 after sentencing him to prison on the felony counts. Escareno appealed and the Court affirmed.

Escareno was charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol after two prior felony convictions for the same (Veh. Code,1 §§ 23152, subd. (a), 23550.5) (count 1); felony driving with .08 percent or higher blood alcohol after two prior felony convictions for the same (§§ 23152, subd. (b), 23550.5) (count 2); misdemeanor unlawful operation of a vehicle not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device (§ 23247, subd. (e)) (count 3); misdemeanor driving when privilege suspended for driving under the influence, with priors (§ 14601.2, subd. (a)) (count 4); misdemeanor driving while license suspended or revoked, with priors (§ 14601.5, subd. (a)) (count 5); misdemeanor driving without a valid license (§ 12500, subd. (a)) (count 6); and possession of an open container of alcoholic beverage while driving, an infraction (§ 23222, subd. (a)) (count 7).

The People, Plaintiff and  Respondent, V. Christopher Eric Williams, Defendant And Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 30, 2021, No. A160530) 2021 WL 1712162, At *1–4

 Summary: Christopher Williams pled no contest to one count of felony stalking (Pen. Code, § 646.9, subd. (a)1). Shortly after Williams’s plea, the Legislature passed an omnibus budget bill that took immediate effect (Assem. Bill No. 1810). The bill enacted Penal Code section 1001.36, which authorizes trial courts to grant pretrial diversion for certain defendants suffering from mental health disorders. The court denied mental health diversion and Williams was placed on probation for three years. Williams appealed arguing that the court abused its discretion in finding him unsuitable for mental health diversion because he does not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety. The Court of Appeal ruled that  the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for mental health diversion and reversed the order.

Mental Health Diversion

People v. Brugman (Cal. Ct. App., Mar. 30, 2021, No. D076658) 2021 WL 1186143

 Summary: Brugman was convicted of  assault with a deadly weapon was based on his act crashing his vehicle into the car being driven by His former girlfriend as she tried to enter the driveway to her mother’s apartment complex. The jury was required to find that Brugman was “aware of the facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that a battery would directly, naturally and probably result from his conduct.” (Williams, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 788, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 114, 29 P.3d 197.) The jury was instructed with CALCRIM No. 875 that to find Brugman’s vehicle constituted a deadly weapon, it was required to find that Brugman’s vehicle was “used in such a way that it [was] capable of causing and likely to cause death or great bodily injury.” (See People v. Perez (2018) 4 Cal.5th 1055, 1065, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 51, 416 P.3d 42 [“a ‘deadly weapon’ under section 245, subdivision (a)(1) is ‘ “any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in such a manner as to be capable of producing and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury,” ’ ” and “cases have recognized a vehicle as a deadly weapon based on the manner it was used”].)

The Court of Appeal fling conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is supported by substantial evidence.

In The Supreme Court Of California

In Re Kenneth Humphrey On Habeas Corpus; S247278First Appellate District, Division Two A152056;San Francisco City And County Superior Court 17007715; March 25, 2021

In an unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court held that:“No person should lose the right to liberty simply because that person can’t afford to post bail.”  “The median bail amount in California ($50,000) is more than five times the median amount in the rest of the nation (less than $10,000).”

As the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom Court Hearings have become common. Attorneys, parties, and other participants have participated in  the virtual hearings in a more relaxed, informal, and at times in an inappropriate manner.

Maintaining  the same decorum, formality, and respect for the court and with all other participants in the Zoom hearing shows respect for the judicial process and strengthens the presentation of your case.

Judges appear in black robes during virtual Zoom hearings. Attorneys and court participants should dress in a professional manner as in in a courtroom. Court participants would not wear T-shirts, jeans, hats, and similar clothing in a courtroom, they should also not dress in that manner while they are participating in a remote virtual Zoom hearing.

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