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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.

People v. Duchine (Cal. Ct. App., Feb. 9, 2021, No. A157980) 2021 WL 447105, at *1

Summary: John Allen Duchine was convicted of first degree murder in 1987. In 2019, he filed a petition for resentencing under Penal Code section 1170.95,1 [Senate Bill 1437 (S.B. 1437)] with a declaration asserting he was charged and convicted of first degree murder under a felony murder theory, but that he did not, with intent to kill, aid, abet or assist the actual killer in the commission of murder, and that he could not be convicted of first degree murder under the new murder statutes (amended sections 188 or 189). After appointing counsel for Duchine and reviewing briefs submitted by his counsel and the district attorney, the trial court denied the petition.

Duchine contends the trial court erred  by denying relief at the prima facie stage on the ground that there was substantial evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could reach a guilty verdict of first degree murder by engaging in judicial fact-finding at the prima facie stage rather than holding an evidentiary hearing.

CDCR incarcerates people convicted of violent felonies, supervises those released to parole, and provides rehabilitation programs to help them reintegrate into the community with the tools to be drug-free, healthy, and employable members of society. The Budget proposes total funding of $13.1 billion ($12.7 billion General Fund and $345 million other funds) for the Department in 2021-22.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted every aspect of prison operations and the 2020 Budget Act projected an overall adult inmate average daily population of 122,536 in 2020-21. The average daily adult inmate population for 2020-21 is now projected to be 97,950, a decrease of 20 percent from spring projections.

Some of this decrease is attributable to suspending county intake in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which when resumed, will increase the population. Current projections show the adult inmate population is trending downward and is expected to decrease by another 2,626 offenders between 2020-21 and 2021-22.

People v. Brooks (Cal. Ct. App., Dec. 22, 2020, No. A158988) 2020 WL 7586811, at *1

Summary: Jason Brooks appealed  the denial of a petition seeking recall of his sentence pursuant to Penal Code section 1170.91. Brooks agreed to a stipulated term of years in a plea bargain 13 years ago, and  sought recall of his sentence under section 1170.91, subdivision (b)(1), invoking an amendment to section 1170.91 enacted two years ago. The Court of Appeal upheld the summary denial of his petition.


In re Williams (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 16, 2020, No. B303744) 2020 WL 6707335, at *1

Michael Williams was convicted by a jury of of two counts of first degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a))1 that he committed during a robbery when he was 21 years old. The jury found true the allegation that he personally used a firearm in the commission of the robbery (§ 12022.5, subd. (a)). It also found true the special circumstance allegations that he committed multiple murders (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3)) and murder during the commission of robbery (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)). A court sentenced him to two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).

Summary: Williams, self-represented at the time, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on January 21, 2020. Williams asserted that the denial of a youth offender parole hearing under section 3051 violates his right to equal protection of the laws and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Under section 3051, subdivision (b), most inmates under age 26 at the time of their “controlling offense” become eligible for a youth offender parole hearing in their 15th, 20th, or 25th year of incarceration. The different statutory parole hearing dates depend on the offense. (§ 3051, subd. (b).) Section 3051, subdivision (h) is the exception to the rule. It excludes from youth offender parole hearings offenders, like petitioner, who are serving LWOP sentences for offenses committed “after the person had attained 18 years of age.”

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